“If people do that and remain or become evangelical, I’m OK with that. So long as they don’t hurt and exploit others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. If they remain or become Catholic, AOK. If they remain or become Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, agnostic, atheist, or anything else, I really don’t care. I care only that (a) they think about it and (b) they actively love others and do good to others and help others in need. My sense is that this is becoming more of a standard view in this country. Which is why traditional Christianity is losing people and the non-affiliated are gaining. Whether it will continue to trend that way or not – heaven knows.”
I’m not losing my religion (at least I don’t think I am), but that song popped into my head as I read (and agreed with) Prof. Ehrman’s thoughts here.
In the conversations about Pew Research’s report on the erosion of Christianity in the US that I’ve had with friends and family (such as the recorded ones here with Thomas), I’ve encountered a number of different “mansplainings” and explanations for why people in our country are “losing their religion.” As Ehrman points to in his post here, a number of them have to deal with the assumption that those who are leaving mainline or evangelical (which is mainline here in South Carolina) Christianity are doing so because they weren’t necessarily “true” or “real” believers to begin with.
I find that explanation unfair and, quite frankly, disturbing.
On the other side are the explanations from my more progressive or “neo-atheist” friends that point to the foibles of Christianity’s latent and explicit hypocrisy or the Bible’s troublesome ability to interact with modern notions of history or science and declare that “it’s about time” people started waking up to the realization that our fairy tales are bogus and there is no old white man in the sky who is going to either zap us with lightning, hear our prayers, or deliver us from evil.
I find that worldview just as disturbing as the former one.
My faith is weird.
I appreciate science. I love science. Heck, I’ve taught physical science to unruly and amazing 13 and 14 year olds off an on over the last decade of my life. I also love history. Particularly, ancient history and archaeology fascinate me.
Both of those studies, which some would say should degrade or at least invalidate something as quaint and reproachable as faith in fairy tales, challenge my own notion of self and my own well-thought-out beliefs in a way that encourages me to keep on down the path.
Much like Dali, I realize that beings and things are made of energy, not solid mass.
That potential glimpsing of something beyond our own earthly 80 or so years (at least here in 2015 middle class caucasian America) is what draws me to science and what drives my faith.
That extended realization of a split second peek into this universe of energy way beyond what our eyeballs connected to our evolving ape brains via a short cord we call the optic nerve (on mine there is plaque) can ever hope to process is what drives us further out into the cosmic ocean, as Sagan said.
Faith that is based or driven by the need for a moral structure or the need for a guiding hand to be told what to think or do is what is eroding, and will continue to erode, in our country. I have a set of assumptions and guidelines that define my moral and ethical code because of my glimpsings of the universe beyond my diseased optic nerve. That is the basis of my faith. Not the other way around.
We are truly magnificent and amazing creatures, designed by time and weathered by the millennia to survive and thrive on this pale blue dot. But we are also selfish, and capable of great evils. Religion doesn’t save us or secure us from those primal instincts. In many ways, religion is the prime motivator for those evils that we all to easily commit whether intentionally or unintentionally.
We shouldn’t shy away from that reality and speak truth to those who would use religion as a tool to cause oppression of those of different genders, races, sexual persuasions, color spectrum preferences, nationalities, Apple / PC / Android fan-ism, hair color, eye color, allergies, or carbon family basis. Religion is the invitation to participate with the universe in some way that we can never understand. “We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries,” and that shouldn’t be taken lightly or used as a tool to tell others that they cannot be leaders in our religion or they cannot love another person based on the makeup of sexual anatomy etc.
Our human understandings based on supposedly innerant manuscripts handled countless times by wise and unwise transmitters do not cause us greater communion with the divine if we are seeking to prove our own confused interpretations of the messages being transmitted by the electrochemical computer we call our brains. Otherwise, as Gamaliel warns us across the ages, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail.”