Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Disagreement Religious Bigotry?

David Hayward at nakedpastor presented the following cartoon on his blog...

Often the discussion of ideas breaks down because the accusation of rudeness is used to imply that whatever the person being “rude” is saying is untrue. In my experience those who follow any of the three Abrahamic traditions generally expand rudeness to anything appearing to question the nature or existence of their god. Accusations of blaspheme tend to be brandished about in these situations.

When I was a believer I noted how easily I could be offended. It made me wonder how solid my idea of truth was if it was so vulnerable to criticism. I have noticed that if something is true, it doesn’t need to be defended. I simply came to the point where I couldn’t defend my Christian beliefs in any objective way. And on the subjective level I came to realize how many of my Christian beliefs were extremely destructive to my quality of life.

On a personal level the subjective is absolutely needed to make life full. Love, beauty, art, music, and whole host of inner experiences make life quite wonderful. So if one claims their belief brings them a sense of wonder and joy, there is no argument since the truth of their wonder is based solely on their interpretation of the experience. They are absolutely the arbiter of their own truth as far as how it affects their enjoyment of life.

Now its quite different when that person decides that since their subjective experience is wonderful then everyone has to have the same exact experience to feel wonderful and until the whole world has that experience, the universe will simply not be “right.” And this person decides that those who do not agree that this experience is the one and only true way, are in fact condemned to burn in hell forever. That is essentially what many Christians are doing. This has no basis in truth or fact and is simply untestable in any objective way what so ever and yet confident claims are made of its universal veracity. In addition I would guess most Christians don’t actually have an experience to reference, but are simply defending something they have been told is true.

Now I can be dishonest and tell you that I respect your belief, when in fact there is nothing believable about it to me, other than I can believe that it makes you happy. And even though Christians feel it is their duty to “love” me so much by telling me that my lack of belief makes me amoral and a evil influence on society, I can still appreciate the obvious joy something like “God loves me” can bring to a person.

When I look at Christianity’s track record of violence, manipulation, and oppression, I find no evidence that it should be the universal “truth” that the whole world needs to follow. I really can’t find any philosophy or religion that could fit that bill. I do know a number of methods for learning and adapting I could recommend.

The deal breaker for bridge building is the fact that every Abrahamic sourced religion believes that the whole world should be like them. Any bridge building done by them would be a lie. It would simply be a means to convert everyone to their idea of what is true. The type of bridge building implied by the cartoon can only be done when religious belief stays in the realm of subjective experience and communication is done for the motivation of curiosity and understanding.
Christians gives a lot of lip service to truth and yet becomes offended when someone who disagrees is completely honest. When someone is honest with me that information is very valuable. When someone simply tells me what I want to hear, that person doesn’t care about me, but sees me as a means to an end. And this happens too often in Christian communities as the latest “mission” project or “cause” defending Christian values sweeps through town.

We live in a weird world where large groups of people holding rigid views of god and truth are in a continual collision course, even among themselves. One simply needs to publish the right offensive cartoon, say a particular “liberal’ phrase, or accidently misunderstand a small point of a complex culture to ignite a holy outrage. This spawns leaders telling the group they need to fight for their truth and how the world is going to fall apart unless they give everything. They claim that they are the persecuted one’s even if they are the majority and that anyone who is against their beliefs is motivated by evil intents to destroy all that is good and wholesome. And the latest is that anyone who is against their religion is bigoted. I guess I should never under estimate the power of fear.