The problem with committing to something based solely on faith is that you will always be confronted with facts and reality that challenge that faith, especially if it is a spiritual faith based on ancient texts that predate science. Being unprepared for this often leads people of faith to react in ways that are in conflict with the core values of love and tolerance. The dark nature of hate and intolerance ultimately brings any cult or institution to a finality as long as the larger culture still believes in “the better nature of our angels”. But once that check is reduced to insignificance then religions become little more than authoritarian tools for people who wish only to control others, not free them.
A controversial sign was placed outside Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon in March of 2012
The recent Tweets of Neil deGrasse Tyson suggesting that December 25th had meanings other than a holy day established by the Christian Church centuries ago seemed to have agitated certain people one can only imagine lack any true grace. It is these people who often do more damage to the faith they have come to call their own than anyone or anything outside of that faith. Unless they are challenged by those who hold up religion as a source of social cohesion based on real justice and compassion, the strength of what sustains these religions will be lost.
Like many others, I found comfort and guidance at one time in a faith that touted forgiveness and tolerance over persecution and penance for a litany of human foibles. But over time I came to realize that the institution of religion was more repressive than the spirituality that it derived from. Free will and charity towards others were often merely hooks to draw you in to a belief system that ultimately led many people to alienate themselves from “outsiders” rather than build a community through just and virtuous acts.
So much of what we were taught in Sunday school and catechism classes is flawed in so many ways by people who themselves are too often severely flawed. Yes Jesus loves us but will throw you into a fiery pit of hell if you don’t love him back in the prescribed manner. The Christian Church, once a refuge for the persecuted, became a dominant authoritarian institution that became not unlike those political forces who once hounded them and nailed them to the cross.
They destroyed any semblance of a life outside the dogma they preached and killed “heretics” who deviated from the narrow script they formed to keep control of their authority. It is now clear through years of research that the Judeo-christian faith itself is pretty much a plagiarized version of earlier religious practices from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and other older cultures that bordered around what is the modern day Middle East.
Yet somehow it still exists. The reason? Within the Judeo-christian religion is the core message of love and tolerance that appeals to our humanity. It is the suggestion that we love our enemies and care for strangers that many Christians have difficulty with however. Step outside the narrow confines of acceptability by more conservative church members and you’ll find yourself being portrayed as someone under the influence of Satan.
Many who come are themselves broken people looking for relief from what ails them. The cheap love expressed in bumper sticker phrases like “Jesus loves you” or “God forgives you” comes from many members who themselves remain broken and desperately need the love and acceptance of others. They feed off of each other but have difficulty reaching out to those who haven’t bought into the church dogma which alienates believers and non-believers. If we keep losing the Francis I-style advocates for Christianity to the Bryan Fishers, the religion named after the so-called Lamb of God will be displaced with legions of 21st century Inquisitors.
Love and tolerance only really works if it intervenes routinely in our lives. Once someone is damaged from years of abuse, especially from the so-called “good Christian people” in society, things like love and tolerance are looked on with suspicion and contempt. And this exists even within the congregations of many churches. Drawn by the need to be accepted but never really having any conversion experience that empties their dark past, it is these people who attack the Neil deGrasse Tysons that suggest something other than their narrow, fundamental beliefs.
So, as you read the responses of so-called committed Christians who disparage Tyson as “atheist scum” or “a dick”, or someone who should “Sit down and shut up”, know that these people will ultimately be the reason that a faith that promises so much to rebuild people’s lives will be consumed by a message that destroys and alienates the community of mankind.
Over a century ago Eleanor H. Porter’s main character in her 1913 best-seller, Pollyanna, sent a not so subtle message to the Christians of her time, referencing what she labeled as the 800 “happy text” in the Bible:
“…if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice”, Pollyanna tells the Reverend Paul Ford, “he must want us to do it–SOME”