Saturday, July 12, 2008

A journalist wrote today that some people want religion banned from the public domain. That is, they want less debate about it and to suppress the expression of opinion by those who practice a faith. The writer put it this way: "..they do not support religious toleration because they believe that religious convictions are the cause of so much serious and enduring harm in the world."
For one thing, this attitude clashes with freedom of belief. It is dangerous. The worst dictatorships in the world's history have tried denying people freedom of belief; and apart from being evil in principle, it never works in practice. All that comes of it is misery, strife, and the eventual collapse of that dictatorship. No way should a person be forced to practice a religion. You can't truly force someone to believe something anyway. It is pure humbug to try that. And no way should a person be denied the right to their beliefs in living a faith. To do that denies a human their humanness. It is trying to stop them thinking and feeling. But all that is well known. I'd like to put a slightly different angle on the issue.
I did not become a Christian until I was nearly 25 years old. That was after growing up in the 1960s and 70s. That was the time of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Timothy Leary suggesting that LSD should be put in water supplies so that everyone was on a permanent drug trip. That was when widely followed rock singers like The Beatles went into experimenting with mind-altering drugs, and the big spiritual thing was eastern mysticism. There was any amount of publicity given to gurus and yogis teaching transcendental meditation; workshops in 'communing with the cosmos'; and the hippy idea of free love. Living in the Western world at the time, you saw all that. There were huge race riots in parts of the U.S. and big changes in Europe and Australia. And at the end of it all, there was a huge sense of "Yeah, right...what now?"
Richard Dawkins wrote "The God Delusion" and claimed to have shot down the whole idea of belief in God. Clever people have been ridiculing Christianity for years. And I'm telling them that I became a Christian because it had answers that they did not have.
Compare them to the Gospel, and they just can't match it.
What I'm saying next is not meant to be hurtful to any particular person. And it applies to me as well. The fact is, no human I ever knew could stack up against God as someone to put your trust in. It's not likely that someone like Richard Dawkins would ever bother speaking to me, but if he did I could say "You just haven't got it!"
All human individuals fail at some time. That goes for their ideas and teachings as well. The thing that rises above them all does what none of them can, is what we see in the God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
I will respect anyone's right to believe what they choose. Be an atheist, a Hindu, rationalist, take your pick. That is your right, to believe what you want. But never try persuading me by scorning Christianity. The more people try that the more they reveal their own smallness in the face of it. I respect others' beliefs, but they need not waste their time trying to tell me they've got something better. I've seen a lot and that's where I've ended up.


Democracy Lover said...

I am happy that you have found something that gives your life meaning, and I agree that religion is part of the public dialog in this nation. We merely need to be careful to keep the government out of the religion business.

I share your feeling that having someone tell you their religion or their lack of religion is better than yours is annoying and often condescending. It would be wonderful if atheists would refrain from trying to convert Christians and Christians would refrain from trying to convert non-Christians.

Marshall Art said...

It is the duty of every Christian to spread the Good News. It's called "the Great Commission". But force is not part of the equation. The trouble is, that in the mere bringing up of the subject, a confrontation develops. It's very difficult for some to enter into such a discussion without that unhappy result, and it's likely why many prefer never to discuss religion, or politics.

I would also agree that we need to keep government out of the religion business. But that should not mean that no mention of religion should ever be uttered within a governmental debate or discussion. In the USofA, that's not how it was meant to work. It would simply be more helpful if those who do come from a religious perspective have some way of showing how their ideas have practical value to all. I feel it's pretty easy to do from a Judeo-Christian perspective, as most, if not all such teachings have solid secular applications and benefits.

But in regards to the post, I think the main problem with some who distain the religious in the public square, is that it is like holding a mirror before those who know intrinsically that they are guilty of sinful behavior. In other words, to utter the name "God" immediately reminds them of their particular sinful pleasure, and as no one wants to be considered wrong or sinful, they'd just assume that no one ever bring it up.

Andrew Clarke said...

I can see democracy lover's point: trying to get others to take up your own beliefs leads to strife. But then as marshall art says, there is a duty for all Christians to spread the Word and you can see why if you look at it this way: if I know something true that others need to know to save themselves - such as an impending Tsunami, if you like - then it's an obvious duty to warn others. You may say that is a false comparison because spiritual beliefs are a personal choice but then, if you REALLY believe what the Gospel says, then it follows that people NEED to know, whether or not they want to. You can't force them to believe but it would be a reckless disregard for their welfare if you did not at least try to warn them.

Democracy Lover said...

I wonder if some atheists don't believe they are saving Christians from disaster and that "it would be a reckless disregard for their welfare if you did not at least try to warn them."

Those who disdain religion in the public sphere, no doubt do so because they have little respect for religious beliefs, not because they feel guilt for some alleged sin.

Marshall Art said...

So they say, DL. But it's funny how they are usually unable to feel any guilt for anything that interferes with their desires. And they certainly get pissed if accused of sinfulness. Now really, why get pissed if you don't believe you're doing anything wrong? My first instinct is to laugh off misconceptions about myself and if they persist, I simply correct them when the subject comes up and dare them to offer proofs. No need to get pissed.

However, regarding the first paragraph of your last comment, I have no problem with it and agree. I believe it's encumbent upon everyone to try and prevent others from walking off the cliff. They just need to be able to persuade and back off if they can't.

Democracy Lover said...

I think most people get pissed when someone refuses to respect their beliefs, that's just human. The problem with discussions about religion is that no one can offer proofs - for or against. There simply aren't any.

The test then, regardless of our desire to think of it differently, is simply whether our belief system is demonstrably helpful to us and to those with whom we come in contact. As a wise man once said, "by their fruits shall you know them".

What I look for is how a particular belief, mindset or world view causes someone to act, what decisions it leads them to make, and what compassion it leads them to have for others.