Thursday, August 07, 2014

When Someone Attacks Your Religious Beliefs

I want to thank readers of my blog for being tolerant and accepting of my posts about organized religion. It is a pleasure to write among fellow Quakers and fellow believers. You have shown a kind of intellectual maturity and tolerance I rarely experience. I have occasional rubbed a few people the wrong way, but it has never been difficult to smooth over rough edges with the right words. Those who paint my readers and friends with the same sarcastic, skeptical brush haven't made acquaintance with the people I have. I'm glad that most readers will give me the benefit of the doubt and know that the very last thing on my mind is to win converts to Christ.

Starting on Tuesday, I began to post about the particulars of my faith, particularly my belief in God and in Christianity. I received some extremely strong criticism and was accused of proselytizing. I faced a tremendous amount of hostility. In reality, I was only sharing the particulars of my faith, in an informative way, but not in a way that implied I wanted people to believe the same way I do. I have made the acquaintance of other people of faith and have even had several diaries rescued and put up on the front page of Daily Kos. I'm thankful for the Street Prophets Kos group, where I have found many like-minded people.

Feministe is a website for young Feminists. My references to organized religion there have been met with extreme suspicion and at times anger. I must admit I do not understand people who assume that religion in any form must be destructive. All I was trying to show was the link between feminism and Christianity, but that opportunity never materialized. I was eventually shut down by everyone, then the moderator. Should you wish to read through this extensive hyperlinked thread, start about a quarter of the way down when I, cabaretic, begin to share my thoughts.

This post is not a way to vent about the way I was treated, but rather it is a plea that we not let our real or imagined issues with organized religion get in the way of teachable moments. To Feministe readers, I was not trying to force feed my Quakerism to a group of people who resisted it and had no interest in the first place. They were not ready to hear it on its own terms. Someday they may, and someday they might not. That's up to them.

I hold no grudges, but I am frustrated by people who believe that religion is automatically evil. As I kept posting, I found that, unlike other venues, the more I tried to define myself and my own beliefs, the angrier and less tolerant comments became.

Should anyone want to better understand the conundrum I found myself in, they can use the link here. In short, I ran into a group of people who would not tolerate my right to religious expression. I found myself besieged on five sides by people who simply would not listen and did not care. I have occasionally discovered comments along those lines in other articles, but I've also read overtly religious diaries that are treated with reverence and respect.

These are some of the comments I received.

1. Many people find your opinions to be proselytizing and obnoxious, and so we have grown to dislike you. That’s not persecution, not matter how much you may wish to model yourself on the central figure of a death cult that has been used as the justification for mass slaughter an extraordinary number of times.

2. Officials what you say about Quakerism is true, I am actually pretty sure that your fellow Quakers would be utterly horrified to hear about your exploits trolling feminist forums, “promoting” their cause even when asked not to, and being completely dismissive of the reasons offered by women here as to why they are not interested in your religion and not interested in hearing more.

     3. Joking, I noted something that I thought was very harmless. 
                    Honestly, you would make an excellent Quaker.
          The response was not what I was expecting at all.

           To me this comes off as super creepy

I spent three hours talking past people who did not want to give me the benefit of the doubt. My entire point was not to convert or win souls to Christ. Rather, I wanted them to see that Quakerism is indeed a feminist religion, and that their automatic fears about any organized religion might be a little paranoid. I see now that this is a conclusion they will have to reach on their own.

But in the meantime, I hope these people make peace with organized religion. We're all aware of the evil that religion has produced, but I tend to fault individual people more than I do a belief system. As George Carlin put it, "There are no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad intentions. And words." To me it takes a kind of courage to reexamine Christianity and religion with different eyes, eyes that aren't automatically looking to find fault.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, and once I rejected the predominant cultural mindset. And then I looked at what I had been taught earlier in life, and saw that there was much worth there. Any system devised by human hands will be imperfect, which is why there must be constant reform. The challenge for me is recognizing the groups who will hear me, just as they chose to hear or not to hear Jesus, and then share my strategy to bring us together. My motives are a little Utopian, but then again, I care for people enough that I want to bring everyone to the table.

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