Monday, October 10, 2005

Religion and a-religion

Posted this at Daily Kos:


One prejudice some secular Democrats could do without is this: religious people must have blind, irrational spots where their religion touches reality, while secular people have thrown off the shackles of the oppressor and stopped drinking the narcotic Kool-aid of the masses, and are such great Vulcan logic machines that if you prick them, they bleed green.

In other words, religious people have failed where freethinkers have succeeded, to find objectivity and a rational way to live in the world. As Maher put it [on Real Time with Bill Maher: "That - people of faith - and when I hear 'people of faith' I think, well those are people who suspend rational judgment for nonsensical ******** that they believe." ... "No - I had a mental block when I was a child when they taught me this nonsense and when I got to be an adult, I got over it." ], he grew up, but I never did. Pardon me if I'm not convinced; let me just point out that the same claim may apply in reverse, equal and opposite: religious people have found a rational way to live in the world while freethinkers have failed.

Without prejudging the outcome of a debate between religion and a-religion, just think about how unhelpful these equal and opposite arguments are in formulating the basic questions about life, the universe, and everything.

It's up to religious people, like me, to counter that prejudice by talking about what real religion looks like (and not sounding like idiots in the process), and to reject our fellow believers' truth-avoiding behavior.

It's up to non-religious people to take seriously the rumors that religious people can think, and to take with a grain of salt the rumors that religious people are so far-gone in their distorted faith that they are willing to ignore evidence that contradicts their faith in order to retain a sense of peace and integrity about their place in the world. I'm not saying you will never run into people with a distorted religion; I live in Utah, after all, where a lot of people grow up believing a religion just because it's what their mother and father believed and they know in their heart that it's true.

But there is a middle ground for religious politics. Here is a mission statement for religion we should all be able to agree is sorely needed and sadly distant from religion in public life in America:

"Religion is patient, religion is kind. Religion does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Religion is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Religion does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Religion always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

No matter what religious stripe you paint on your sleeve (including transparent, or paintless), "Religion does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" ought to be the hallmark of religion in politics for the Democrats. The differences between this and the religious politics of the right are obvious.

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