I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write in this post, wrote various sentences, deleted them again, and in the end, I think I’ll just stick with “this is interesting”. My thoughts on the matter will have to come out through comments or later posts.
Most Americans oppose violence spurred by religious fundamentalism, but few agree on how to address it. In books like The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, author Sam Harris contends that religion itself–not its more extreme forms–is to blame. This week, Harris debates blogger and Conservative Soul author Andrew Sullivan in a no-holds-barred “blogalogue.” Return here to see Harris’ next post–and check Andrew Sullivan’s blog for his responses.
This is from ‘God Is Not a Moderate’, on RichardDawkins.net. The debate can be found elsewhere as well, but that source is to me the most readable.
OK, that intro seemed to help me get over my writers’ block. My apologies: this probably means I’m going to ramble on randomly for the rest of this post.
For some time now I’ve been labelling myself a “moderate”, hoping the term is broad enough not to lead to too much confusion. (Why label things? Well, to try to aid understanding. Try pointing out a “tree” species without making use of the label “tree”.) I have for a couple of years recognized the problems and dangers inherent in fundamentalism, and generally agree that the world would be a better place without it. And then I also ponder John Lennon’s “Imagine no religion”…
While just ignoring such issues completely, and getting on with my life with some unresolved vagueness sounds like a wonderful option, I have quite some trouble opting for it. Suppose one does opt for leaving unresolved vagueness, what does one tell one’s children, for example? I hear the main “problem” in mixed-religion marriages is “what to teach the kids”. I also wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of telling your children “Don’t worry, grandma is in heaven” versus “I choose to believe grandma is in heaven, and suggest you do too”. The latter is definitely more honest? Sam Harris suggests: “Rather than teach our children to grieve, we teach them to lie to themselves.” (Now is maybe not the time to go into abstract ideas of “heaven”. I have some potentially interesting ideas I will share someday.)
Then again, why need I worry about my children, if I remain an eternal bachelor, which is the route I seem to be currently walking? It does not exactly help that the general consensus in one of my circle of friends is that the most important thing in finding a potential spouse is their being a “good Christian”. My views are unconventional enough, or just unconservative enough, that I often do not feel I meet their definition of “good Christian”. (I do remain conservative enough that I will never have children to raise if I’m not in a marriage. <grin>) Maybe I’m forcing that circle of friends into a box in which they don’t really belong. I wouldn’t really know. I am hoping to start conversations like these that would help me learn more about the true views of my friends, it’s not the kind of thing easily discussed at the typical party. And yes, that was a great and terrible generalization.
Anyway, if I make this post long enough, I need not worry about sweeping generalizations – few enough people will read it that it doesn’t matter. So back to the article, and why its chain of thoughts is interesting to me. I am on a journey. (All Christians should be on a journey, not at a destination.) This particular section of my journey seems primarily concerned with what exactly it is that I believe, and what that really means to me.
Take a look at an old post by Real Live Preacher, The Beginning and the End of Wisdom, a most amazing essay that somehow expresses what I’m thinking incredibly well. If you were to read only one of the two links I provide in this post, I suggest you read this one. Besides, it’s much shorter than the debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan.
Well, that’s enough for now. I will further lament peer pressure and fundamentalism at a later date, as well as illustrate and explain my views bit by bit. For now I want to encourage everyone to comment. You can also do so anonymously (you do have to provide an email address, but only I will ever see it, and I respect your privacy).
Oh, and who wants to watch “Saved!” with me? You can find trailers at the movie’s official site. I’m curious as to what my reaction to that movie will be.