Take It or Leave It: Mm, Tasty Buffet
It isn’t evil.
No, really. It’s at the center of arts and culture of a lot of societies. Even if it has held them back in other ways. It isn’t an either/or question. To say that the world would have been better (or worse) without religion is ridiculous.
Accept what is, and move on.
For instance, we now have a useful concept of the separation of church and state.
I had a conversation with a close friend. He’s Catholic. Most of my friends are. Something of a side effect of where I went to university.
I don’t agree with their beliefs, but they’re good people.
We saw one of those “Jesus is the Only reason for the season” billboards. I noted how the “only” is how you know they’re assholes. It’s the same mindset that argues about persecution and a lack of free speech, but wants programming they don’t agree with off the air.
He said, yeah, it’s like Al Jazeera. That’s what they’d like to turn it into. You’re talking about fundamentalists, right?
My friend’s a pretty liberal Catholic. He’s right when he says that none of the priests that worked at our University would ever preach that people need to convert or burn, or that there’s only one way to be.
We talked about the work done by Catholic groups in Africa. Missionaries of all sorts do some very good things; I won’t hold their beliefs against them, since those drive them. On the other hand, fundies and Catholics, both, are causing all kinds of problems over there for other reasons. Like birth control.
He agreed, it’s definitely a problem the way those things are being handled. Of course, he doesn’t begrudge other people for their premarital sex. He knows how important birth control is.
But that’s the rub, really- where do we draw the line? Even this birth control issue is part of the post-Vatican 2 church. And when believers have to pick and choose their way through some of the dogma, from an ideological standpoint, how do we separate the good from the bad?
When you come to the point that there is no assumed special context regarding any holy book, what value do most of their stories really have? What do they really teach that isn’t universal to otherwise drastically different societies?
I’m glad there are religious people like my friend who honestly embrace a live and let live, ecumenical worldview. But I’m sorry to say that I can’t help but see such a view as hypocritical at worst, inadvertently lying to yourself at best? The Catholic Church has its dogma and doctrine, and the whole point is that they know best.
When you start down the path of metaphor, where do you stop?
To speak of my friend and the part of the Catholic community that he knows is, unfortunately, only indicative of their specific piece of that community. I have no problems with them. But even among Catholics, where is the so-called unity of faith? Even among Catholics, some differences run deep.
I have another friend, an ex-Catholic who is currently Unitarian. When she started at our college, she was still Catholic. She had roommates/floormates who criticized her for speaking with a male floormate while in her pajamas (which not in the least bit sexy in any way. The word we’re looking for is “plain and concealing”). She has said that she was never “Catholic enough” for them. Six of one, right?
It’s all a giant No True Scotsman fallacy. While individuals and particular groups might be worthwhile, how do you really make any judgments, if not from an outsider’s perspective?
And to loop back around, this is why we can’t legislate morality. And where so many religious folks miss the point. Almost all versions of “morality” are from a religious perspective, and that can’t be trusted when applied to the sheer variety of beliefs out there. It’s like tax-funded abstinence-only education. The current research shows that it doesn’t work. If it isn’t working for public schools, it should not be used- especially not tax-funded. The only real impetus there is religious. And from a society-wide perspective, it doesn’t work.
(not my billboard photo. Click through. Finally saw one in SD)