Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Faith and Reason
Sometimes I forget that religion just isn't reasonable.
I was raised a Christian, and though I now consider myself more Buddhist than anything else, I think I appreciate the teachings of Christianity as I understand them: love your neighbor, be kind, be charitable. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Care for the poor and the infirm.
Recently, though, through a complex series of Facebook references and links, I came across this site. I can't quite tell who sponsors it, or their denomination. But it was fascinating to read, if only because it reminded me just how much my views diverge from those of some Christians.
The site includes discussions on a number of political and religious issues, including, predictably, homosexuality. There's a point-by-point rebuttal of virtually any argument for accepting homosexuality. The overall gist is that it's prohibited by God, according to the Bible -- and because God is never wrong, nothing that we say or do can change that position. Even if scientists find a clear and specific biological or genetic basis for homosexuality, it will still be wrong, because God says so. (And besides, he would never create us to be gay.)
The site argues that being non-judgmental doesn't mean turning a blind eye. It means judging righteously. So it's OK to tell someone they're wrong or sinful.
And it argues that tolerating homosexuality -- and presumably, other "sinful" behavior -- is unacceptable because God "will bring judgment on the nation that fails to prosecute what He calls crimes." In other words, there's no such thing as live and let live, because one gay brings everyone down.
It's impossible to reason or debate with people who hold such ardent beliefs. I'm not talking just evangelical Christians -- conservative Muslims and Jews hold similar views. Ultimately their arguments are not reasonable. They're statements of faith: "I believe this because God says so."
I don't mean to denigrate faith or to paint everyone with a broad brush -- I know there are widely varying viewpoints within every religious community. But I don't understand a faith that is so watertight, so impervious to critical thinking and questioning, that it eclipses any recognition that others may have their own truths. I am almost always suspicious of certainty.
Personally, I suspect that God -- if there is a God, in the sense of any single being, which I doubt -- didn't say many of the things attributed to him. The Bible as a historical document has been ceaselessly tampered with and re-interpreted over the centuries, and even in its initial recording reflects the norms of civilization more than two thousand years ago. What really blows my mind is the idea that conservative Christians can't leave others alone to do as they see fit, because doing so is somehow going to bring down God's wrath upon all of society.
What a tangled web. Really. It makes me despair that we will ever be able to understand each other.
(Photo: Portobello Road, last week.)