Thursday, July 12, 2012

Enough Already!

Courtesy of a friend's Facebook feed: here is something that makes me very, very angry.  And courtesy of the group in whose photo album that picture is posted, here's a statement about Christianity that starts out with a fair point, though one that's a bit of a straw man in places, but which descends into little more than a slightly more eloquent version of "these people are all scum."

I realize that a group with the name "Strong Intelligent Women Choosing Equality & Freedom Instead Of Religion" is hardly going to be sympathetic to anything that even has a slight whiff of religion to it.  I understand that they have a certain interest in portraying themselves as being more intelligent than people of any kind of faith, and that they will prefer to see religion as an oppressive and evil force that holds no value in their lives and ought not to be valuable to anyone.  And in all fairness, given the fact that I left the Roman Catholic Church for some similar reasons, I admit that I can even sort of see their point.  Still, it makes me angry that people who see themselves as intelligent and strong are so adamant that anyone who hasn't embraced atheism as they have has to be stupid and malicious.

It's not just the repetition of these tired old stereotypes and attacks—and I do view the way that all Christians are routinely equated with the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church or the guy holding the sign in that first picture as a sort of attack, as by far most of the people I've known in my life who are Christians are actually pretty decent people, with (gasp!) functional brains and well-developed consciences—that makes me angry.  It's the fact that so many Christians, people with whom I share some elements of belief, are expected to be judgemental and misogynistic anti-intellectual assholes, particularly since so many vocal and/or high-profile Christians insist on being judgemental and misogynistic anti-intellectual assholes.  It's the way that it's so popular to either embrace the worst hateful, misogynistic, and destructive things (and it's a decided understatement to say that there are some absolutely awful things in the Bible) or harp on the horrible stuff as if that's all there is.

On both sides, and in very different ways, there often seems to be a willing ignorance about (or perhaps even the suppression of) the kinder, gentler things that appear in the Bible.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye.
—Matthew 7:1-5

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'  Then the righeous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'  And the king will answer them, 'Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'
—Matthew 25:34-40

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
—Luke 12:48

How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
—1 John 3:17-18

These passages, and ones like them, are the reasons why I'm able to blend the basic religious framework in which I grew up with the more Earth-centred, female-friendly, and inclusive spirituality that I developed in my years as a total Pagan.  This is why I haven't totally abandoned Christianity and this is why I believe that it is, at its most basic level, compatible with my Pagan beliefs and practices.  There's love there, and compassion, too.  There are reminders that no matter how self-centred we can get, we are not the centre of the universe and we owe other people, and the world itself, our kindness and generosity.  And the more we have, the more we have a duty to share, or at least to work for a world in which those who do not have as much as we do will still have a decent quality of life.

Don't tell me that I can't believe in these things, or that I can't possibly acknowledge the importance of science (I do), or that I'm a misogynist or an anti-choicer or a person who thinks that women ought to shut up and be kept pregnant and dependent on men (I'm not) just because to me, one of the faces of the Divine is Jesus of Nazareth.  If you do, you're doing yourself no favours and you're doing me (and people like me) a lot of harm.

It's one thing to dislike Christianity because of the bad things that it's been used as an excuse for, and because of the less-than-compassionate aspects of the Bible.  That's fair game.  But to hate all of it outright, to blast it (and the people who follow one of its many paths) for the bad things and completely disregard the good without regard to the fact that many people are inspired to do good things because of it, are inspired to be better people by it (and not just because of the threat of Hell that the churches have disproportionately emphasized through the centuries for their own purposes and gain), there's no excuse for that.  The anger may well be justifiable, but the misrepresentation and disdain are not.  It's entirely possible to disagree with people of other creeds without having to stoop to insults, straw arguments, lies, and half-truths garnished with conveniently unpleasant truths.  All it does is antagonize people.  This kind of hate, as with any other kind, doesn't help anyone.

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