It’s easy enough to write about what’s wrong with an ideology you disagree with. But since the end goal of communication should be…well, communion, it’s also beneficial to discuss the good and see what we can learn from it, even if it’s difficult to accept that a competing viewpoint has merit.
There’s another challenge when trying to write about a very popular religion like Christianity that has so many different variations. I could easily praise one form for something that others would consider heresy. Call out one group of Christians for bad behavior, and all the others will rush in to castigate you for using a “straw man” argument…by using another fallacy: “Those people aren’t true Christians!” (If someone praises an aspect of Christianity that you, as a True Christian, think is bad, you have two reasonable options: either consider how you might learn from their viewpoint…or suck it up and go back to your little cult.)
So what do organized religions have to offer?
I wrote about Rejecting Division a while back, and explained my approach to handling the ideas of people who I don’t necessarily agree with. But how can we practically work together when we have such different ideas of what is right and good? What if we don’t even have common goals?
In that article, I mentioned that I was told nothing in my life matters other than becoming a Christian again. I’d like to explain the mindset that leads to such a statement because it illustrates why religions in general are almost impossible to work with. It’s why our politics are so polarized, why radical Muslims kill people, why many tyrants throughout history have ordered the slaughter of dissenters. The mindset is not unique to religion, but when it feeds off the dogmatic nature of most religions it easily grows into something monstrous.
Human rights are the freedoms to which every single human is entitled. For the purpose of keeping this article shorter and reasonably simple, I’m focusing on the rights of free adults. I’ll set aside for now the issues of rights for criminals and the complex relationship between parents and the rights of their children.
When we talk about human rights in terms of morality and the laws of a nation, we are talking about the moral space in which a person is allowed total freedom to make their own choices and act on their own desires in whatever way they see fit, without punishment or other retaliation from the law’s enforcers. In order to clarify what this means, I’m going to explain a few principles.
Just two more years until a total solar eclipse hits my area! Unless…
Ask conservative Christians, especially fundamentalists, what it would take to change their minds about their religion, and many of them would say “Nothing could ever change my mind.” Funny, I also said that, before I realized the importance of being open-minded.
I’d like to be proven wrong about anything I believe. Not because I enjoy being wrong, but because the truth is what’s most important to me. If I were proven wrong about something and forced to change my opinion on it, I would know that I’m at least closer to the truth. Eliminating wrong ideas is every bit as important as finding the right ones, especially since a search for truth is often prompted by eliminating a wrong idea in the first place.
It’s popular among American Christians, especially conservative ones, to claim our country was founded on Christian values, or on Christianity itself, or by Christians. On some level, there is a bit of truth to this, but the values our country was founded on are not things that solely belong to Christianity, and many of the men who created our founding documents were not Christians.
In fact, the truth is almost the opposite. The inspiration for the personal freedoms outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came from an opposition to Christianity, which at the time was a major political force in much of Europe. Several of our founding fathers clearly stood against early American Christians who sought to inject their religion into the government. Continue reading
Recently I have found it much easier to express myself verbally, and I’ve done less of that thing where I second-guess my thoughts into oblivion and never say them. I’m actually able to say what I think without trembling with fear for five minutes first.
When I was a Christian, I would have attributed this to God. A miracle, I’d say, that I’m overcoming the inhibitions of my autism and finally leaving depression behind.
Now I know better. I know that the mental freedom I’m gaining, and the peace I feel, is not because of religion. It’s partly because of my psychiatrist and medication, and partly because I allow myself to think freely (which did involve putting Christianity behind). In doing the latter, I was able to finally let go of the harmfully self-degrading ideas of humanity that Christian doctrine requires.