Profound Inspiration

My conservative friends provide profound inspiration. I posted the meme below and received the response you see here from a long-standing friend:

Faith is intensely personal. I will evangelize, but not over religion. That said your meme deserves a response.

I’m a proud sinner. And I have a forgiving maker.

I know right from wrong. Sometimes I err. Sometimes I enjoy erring. Forgiveness is easy if you ask and are sincere.

Teaching what is a sin is not the same thing as being a bully.image

I replied:

“Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your calm, honest testimonial/witnessing, and thoughts. I appreciate you engaging. However if you don’t seek discussion then perhaps ignore my professions?

Annie Lennox had it right: “Don’t mess with a missionary man!”

You’ll not find this hard to believe, and forgive me if I’ve regaled you with this story before, but I left the Catholic Seminary where I was training to be a priest shortly after the rector said, and I quote, “Robert! If you’ll just stop THINKING and do as we tell you, you’ll get along a LOT better here!”

I value thinking about and discussing religious ideas.

The question I have is, “What, in the end, makes expressing an opinion about a religious doctrine any more evangelizing than expressing an opinion about an economic policy or a politician?”

Is gun control good? bad? Why? Argue the case.
Is Rand Paul a good Presidential Candidate?
Do you like quantitative easing?
Is teaching free speech a better ideal than teaching that it is acceptable to kill people who “blaspheme”?

Why are any of these topics more or less worthy of discussion? The answer: protective taboo, coupled with a genuine unease discussing potential change to ideas embedded deeply in our identities. Yes, discussions of religion CAN be contentious, but silencing through taboo and tradition can also be very, very dangerous.

Your response boils down to its last line. To which I’d reply, “Yes, but teaching what is a sin is not necessarily the same as teaching the doctrine of original sin.”

The concept of original sin disturbs me. I have come to believe that teaching a child right and wrong is significantly different from teaching them they have sinned before they were even born.

Hozier’ in “Take Me To Church”, and Christopher Hitchens, have both identified the conundrum: We are told we are born sick, then commanded to be well.

A no win proposition.

Here’s the entire Hitchens quote, taken from a formal debate with Tony Blair in Canada, November 2011. This is excerpted from his closing remarks, arguing the “Con” position, for the proposition “Religion is a force for good in the world.” I highly recommend finding and watching the entire debate, both pro and con.

What we have here, picked from no mean source, is a distillation of precisely what is twisted and immoral in the faith mentality. Its essential fanaticism, its consideration of the human being as raw material, and its fantasy of purity.

Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well. I’ll repeat that. Created sick, and then ordered to be well.

And over us to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship; a kind of divine North Korea. Exigent, I would say, more than exigent — greedy for uncritical praise from dawn until dusk. And swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.

An eternal, unalterable, judge, jury and executioner, against whom there could be no appeal. And who wasn’t finished with you even when you died. However! Let no one say there’s no cure! Salvation is offered! Redemption, indeed, is promised, at the low price, of the surrender of your critical faculties.

Religion, it might be said, must be said, would have to admit, makes extraordinary claims, but, though I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, rather daringly provides not even ordinary evidence for its extraordinary supernatural claims. To insist that we are created and not evolved, in the face of all the evidence.

Religion forces nice people to do unkind things and also makes intelligent people say stupid things.
Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, “Beautiful, almost perfect. Now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia, that I may do the work of the Lord”? No!

As the great physicist Stephen Weinberg has aptly put it, “In the ordinary moral universe, the good will do the best they can, the worst will do the worst they can, but if you want to make good people do wicked things, you’ll need religion.

Religion, and in fact any form of faith, -because it is a surrender of reason, it’s a surrender of reason in favor of faith, is a fantastic force multiplier. A tremendous intensifier, of all things that are in fact divisive rather than inclusive. That’s why its history is so stained with blood.

Crimes against humanity, crimes against womanhood, crimes against reason and science, attacks upon medicine and enlightenment, all these appalling things. There is no conceivable way that by calling on the supernatural, you will achieve anything like your objective of a common humanism, which is I think you’re quite right to say, our only chance of, I won’t call it salvation. “

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