The right to exercise your faith does not include the right to have that faith enjoy a privileged position. I am tackling nothing new here. What I am writing about today has been repeated, often, by bloggers, journalists, pundits, and politicians. It has also been ignored multiple times by those the message has been directed toward. This is in part to blame because we all live in our little echo chambers, listening, and often speaking, only to those with whom we agree. There is also the stubborn persistence on the part of the privileged to claim any attempt to lessen that privilege is an attack on their person. Continue reading
I am not a big fan of having to write about a specific issue twice in one week. I hate abusing the proverbial equine once it has shuffled off its mortal coil and such. Every once in a while though someone, or something, sticks in my craw. Maybe the issue is so big, or maybe someone reminds me that they still need an education on it. Such is the case with the following meme. Continue reading
I would like a to take a moment and raise a glass. I want to share a drink, a toast, a cheer, a “huzzah” to all my fellow blasphemers out there. To the heretics, to the non-believers, to the pagans and apostates I say “good on us all!” We are the engine of progress. We kick the hornets’ nest, take our stings and make said hornets drop their ladybug disguises. Continue reading
I am by no means a theological scholar. I know maybe (very strong maybe there) a little more than the lay person owed to my training in philosophy (thank you Dr. Georges Dicker) and my insatiable thirst for knowledge (thank you John Noble!) So when I wanted to understand original sin, and why it was so important to the anti-choice crowd, I did what any sane person would do: I asked an expert. Actually, I asked four of them, all friends or acquaintances who attended seminary.
Specifically, I was curious when original sin took root. Are we born or conceived in sin? My initial thinking was that if we are born, but not conceived, in sin, then the anti-choice people would believe they are protecting the one innocent form of human life. My friend, Craig Kunkle, quickly dashed that line of thinking by pointing out Psalm 51 5 to me: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” So, strike one for Christine.
I hit a long, towering foul ball on the very idea of original sin. I already knew that it had nothing to do with being a willfully bad person. I got that it was something we were born with. I took it (and while I am loath to try to read another’s mind I believe many fundamentalists do to) with being an inherently bad person. Craig, however, explained it thus to me:
We were created good, but we have a broken relationship with God from the beginning. This is because we finite humans are in a relationship with an infinite being. God is always faithful to us but we both
1) don’t keep the relationship
2) try to do good things but sometimes screw the pooch in the process.
So, okay, I get that. It’s a Sartre-esque existential crisis between us and God. The sticky part, and the part of all this that finally explains to me why the Religious Right gets so very worked up about abortion is the difference between them and actual Protestants (which Mr. Kunkle explained to me Baptists, and thus most Evangelicals at least in this country, are not really part of. Yay for learning more stuff!) For Protestants, the idea of original sin was resolved in Christ’s death and resurrection. In this act, Jesus redeemed the entire human race. Original sin, while still a problem, was forgiven at that point.
For Christian Fundamentalists, however, this is not the case. One is not redeemed until one accepts Christ as one’s savior. This, I now believe, is what causes so much furor over abortion. The child (and they see zygotes as children) unsaved is forever denied their place in heaven as they were never able to seek salvation.
Both of these positions require acceptance without proof beyond the Bible and personal faith, which is a big argument for keeping faith out of public decision-making. This question gets very heated when you inject the notion of salvation and sin into it. To me, the only questions worth asking about the abortion debate are ones of public health and society’s needs. Women lose agency when we turn their bodies’ into our spiritual battle grounds, and that is not good for anyone.
Social conservatives are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. They get in a huff about swearing, abortions, homosexuality, transgender folk, premarital sex, the wrong kind of marital sex, and/or the idea that anyone, anywhere is engaging in any of those even though all they have to do is not interact with those that do. The world needs to fit their very narrow view of morality, a morality usually based on an often confused and confusing millenia old collection of stories that even experts on said collection cannot completely agree upon. Anyone that does not agree with them is a horrible sinner and an enemy to be destroyed, even if it means ignoring some of the clearer and more numerous rules in the Bible.
They attack works of fiction that display a morality different from their own, they lie and cheat to defame those who work to help others in a manner not to their liking. In some extreme cases they celebrate the deaths of soldiers to express their anger at society not conforming to the norms they insist it should. They verbally abuse women who advocate for women’s health issues. In short, they behave like rabid animals.
There is a simple reason they have been so vicious of late: they know history is not on their side. They are on their way to irrelevance and it scares them. Oh, they will still be around, and hopefully, so long as they don’t hurt others (though they don’t have the best track record on that front) they can live in peace with the rest of us. What changes is they no longer get to control the narrative. They are losing their special place as the arbiters of right and wrong, and though that is just, to them it just doesn’t seem fair.
All I have to say is, welcome to being like everyone else. You can no longer indulge in your moral and cognitive laziness and sit back comfortable, thanks to your once privileged place in society, comfortable that no one will question the rightness of your actions. Morality, real morality, is hard. It requires reflection on your own behavior and attitudes and how they affect others. You don’t have to do the work of it, but if you don’t, we no longer have to pretend you have the high ground. Them’s the breaks.
I have high hopes that most of those still holding out will learn. They will see their happy gay neighbors, the healthy, sexually active women around them, those living their lives different but not hurting anyone and realize “hey, this isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s kinda neat!” Those that don’t, well, again so long as they hurt no one, I hope they can find some kind of comfort in their bitter self-righteousness.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Nothing raises hackles quite like talking about religion. It is deeply personal and yet so often we are in each others’ faces about it. For some, it is terribly offensive that others do not experience the divine as they do, or worse, do not experience it at all. Wars have been fought over religion. Entire populations wiped out (the genocide of the Americas’ indigenous people was largely justified using religion.) Almost every religion has mandated disenfranchising at least one segment of the population. Very often, one of those is half the population of the planet: women. Religious organizations have, often successfully, demanded excluding those that disagree with them from the public discourse.
It is something we will never be able to completely agree upon. People within the same sect rarely agree about everything. Yet some over the years have been unable to accept that. Given the horrors we have visited one another over the years in the name of faith, I am a little surprised that it took the men and women (OK, men) of the United Nations until the 18th Article to address it. Perhaps they thought if they tabled it just a little while, cooler heads would prevail. Obviously they did enough for this to be accepted into the Declaration, just not enough for religion to no longer be doing damage.
Please do not mistake me. While I am a non-believer myself I have known far too many decent, loving people who critically reflect on their beliefs to paint all, or even a large minority of believers, with a broad brush. In my adult life however I have seen physicians gunned down, thousands murdered in terrorist attacks, and a portion of people in a country founded in part on religious freedom denied their basic human rights. Around the world some people live in theocracies, or monarchies supported by religion. Religious tolerance varies in these countries, but just the fact that one faith is given favor over others creates an oppressive atmosphere for those that do not share the official faith. Sometimes the oppression is much more obvious.
Religion can be a wonderful source of inspiration. I have been fortunate enough to know many people for whom their faith is a call to treat all human beings, even those that do not share their belief set, as brothers and sisters. It is a deeply personal relationship with the divine that no one should infringe upon or foist upon another. Sometimes it is difficult to see when seeking to avoid the former does the latter. We will not always succeed in this, but for all the reasons mentioned above we should always try. Article 18 was the first time when a truly diverse group of individuals did so.