Monday, August 11, 2014

Religious Skepticism

A few hundred years ago, many legitimate critiques could be made of religion. It was often punitive, restrictive, bloodthirsty, hypocritical, and two-faced. Heretics were tortured or burned at the stake, convicted in show trials that would be the envy of Stalin. Some of the more metaphorical and symbolic beliefs of Christianity were criticized roundly for not making logical sense, or discounted for seeming irrational.

Even in a more religious age, burning bushes could not be found, nor could one find undeniable evidence of the miracles Jesus performed during his ministry. Those who believed were said to be adherents to a kind of superstition, nothing more, nothing less. I hear the same things myself today from time to time. The fallacy in these arguments is that no one has bothered to look into my heart before forming their conclusions. God is exceptionally real to me. The means by which I view the Divine might be difficult and complicated. It is impossible to view God through strictly rational eyes. To me, he is not rational and he cannot be proven or disproved by either human perception or scientific proof.

In my estimation, here is where the change begun. With the arrival of the 20th Century, then with four years of bloody, pointless war, the Lost Generation blossomed. Following World War I, the first substantial seeds of Atheism and doubt were sown and spread. A war that killed millions of people and turned the world entirely upside down challenged the traditional beliefs of many. The generation of the 1920's adopted wholesale hedonism, in part due the horrors that had transpired beforehand.

I see nothing wrong with anyone's belief or lack or belief, but Atheism does create many problems. It is a relatively cut-and-dried intellectual construct on its face. But paired with non-belief in God is often a militant brand of complete distaste and anger. This radical skepticism arrives without any comprehension of why and how religion might take hold. It only examines what it is versus what it is not. Atheism may think that it is the only religious option out there, but it sometimes fails to look beyond its lofty ideals to extend tolerance and acceptance to those who do not think as it does. It does not try to see everyone as a child of God and shows little incentive to care for the poor. If Atheists participate in charity work, I apologize for my oversight, but I don't see it through my own life experience.

Many who identify as atheists have often never been exposed to Christian teaching, but some have. If they have, they’ve frequently taken company among faiths that did not always encourage them to think for themselves. They've been indoctrinated instead with a few strategic untruths that have no basis in Scripture. If they took the opportunity to learn a few legitimate religious teachings here and there, and what they really mean, I think their anger would soften. Getting to that stage is the most difficult part altogether, and can only progress when a person is ready. Those who have to build up their spiritual and altruistic muscles find it a difficult, but worthwhile exercise.

I blame the people who teach the evils of faith without giving a fair shake to the other side. Every Christian denomination cherry picks different parts of the book to emphasize its perspective. It should be said that no faith group believes the whole book, regardless of what some conservatives may think. This will be the case forever. I’ve been criticized when those hostile of my religion use truncated and misinterpreted Scriptural passage that seem foolish in when taken in out of context. I am not looking to be right; I am merely seeking reconciliation with the ultimate goal, one where we all might find understanding.

I am asking to be given the benefit of the doubt. Late last week, I got into the middle of a pointless fight over religion with several non-believers. If I had it to go over again, I would not have done it. All it did was make me upset. The reason I even put the time in to an expansive argument is that I really worry that religion and faith are drifting away. I fear that all the worthwhile lessons to be learned will be discarded. Every generation needs to know the Golden Rule. We ought to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is not often what I experienced from those who are not religious.

My hope is that those who are entirely opposed to organized religion will see things differently in time. I myself went through a period where I rejected Christianity in my adolescence. I returned to the faith years later, having taken the time to appreciate where I started out. I would not have become a believer if I hadn't wandered in the wilderness. It might take a while longer for others, which is why I pray to God for patience. Paul persecuted Christians for a good long while, but then had a direct experience with God, where he was struck blind for days. He received a direct communication with Jesus, who asked why Paul was persecuting his people.

Paul’s example shows that everyone’s religious beliefs can change with my time. It’s not my place to say how and why that change will occur, or even if it will. I don’t think that everyone should believe exactly as I do, either. But I do ask that we have enough things in common that we can come together in a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. Everyone progresses at his or her own rate. I only want activists to recognize that, as I mentioned earlier, patience is a virtue and a frustrating, frantic pace only keeps us upset.

Some think that being unflinchingly tough is the best way to resolve a crisis. There have been times in my life where I’ve felt that I needed to lash out to make my point. But in the end, I’ve recognized that this approach has severe weaknesses. Taking the high ground really is the best way, even if it requires a person to swallow his or her pride.

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