29 July 2010

A little birdhouse in the sky

I don't generally get asked that often about my religious views because, well, I don't generally get asked about much at all. But there is something that tends to come up frequently in those conversations, something which I remember quite well from my evangelical days also.

That is, the assumption that I am no longer espouse any spirituality because of some personal bad experiences with religious believers. That's hardly the case. I thought many of the young evangelicals I knew in my time with that crowd were sincerely decent people caught in a belief system that made them act inhumanely. Sure, some of them were creeps who had found a home to justify their superiority and personal authoritarianism. And, of course, there are a great many religious types whose bad theology results directly in their being terrible people. If you believe in some future divine-stomping extinction of humanity, then you're a borderline sociopath. You're mostly harmless in that there is of course not going to be any rapture; not so much if you are sitting on your smug ass while the world is struck by preventable afflictions. That makes you a terrible person, no matter how much we seem to revere any kind of faith as worthwhile.

Digressions aside, the point is that my religiosity or lack thereof has little or nothing to do with the actions of religious people. There are a lot of religious folks whose actions for social justice causes I find very admirable. From my perspective on the left, anyone who's on the side of peace, justice and equality is on my side regardless of what their motivations may be (and I suspect in many cases our fundamental presuppositions about the world aren't that different at all. I try to keep abreast of the news from progressive religious groups, but I could not join them for the simple reason that my own experience has never left me feeling any kind of personal spiritual connection to the supernatural. That is why I am not a religious believer in a nutshell; I cannot find any reason to suspect that there is any kind of extra-dimensional presence that is puling the world around on a kite string.

In a nutshell, my religious philosophy is this: if a God exists and has any kind of personal opinion about how the planet operates, he or she must care primarily about how we go about making the lives of people we can see around us better, and furthermore that we have been given the capacity to understand how to do this on our own. Otherwise, God would be a deceptive, unreliable bastard who wouldn't be worth paying attention to. The god of say, fundamentalist Christianity who selfishly demands arbitrary tasks be performed to no practical end whatsoever can't in any sense actually exist anyway. Furthermore, any god that's going to demand personal recognition of some kind as an arbiter between salvation and damnation had better do a damn sight better job of making itself more readily apparent.

If Christianity could turn itself around from being a mystical self-help religion of navel-gazing and panty-sniffing and recover its tradition of social justice and egalitarianism, I would be happily cheering from the sidelines. But I still wouldn't be reapplying for membership.

More to say on this another time.