Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My Dad Sent a Sin/Salvation article... my thoughts

Hi! If you're up for a lighter "everyday" blog, please check out my other blog here: my fun, lite blog
Now onto more serious concerns...
It was a few weeks ago that my Dad sent me this link in my email entitled, Differences between Salvation in the Qur'an and the Bible.
Not sure if he thought I was delving into Islam (why would I have any interest)? Or, if he thought it had some theological punches about sin and salvation that showed Christianity's superiority to other religious viewpoints. Either way I skimmed the article and these were the tangential thoughts that came in the middle of the night...when I was nursing my baby...when I could literally speak the words into my blog and not have to type a word. These are the rare occasions where I can concentrate on "deeper" topics.
A big issue with Christianity is it's focus on humans beings as sinful, evil, and not good enough. This is a similar behavior in some relationships.
It's like the awful boyfriend who tells his girlfriend, "You are nothing without me, be thankful to be with me because I love you despite your faults--what you lack--your "good actions" and "good qualities" are essentially worthless to me but I will take care of you anyway. 
You are lucky to be with me and remember, it's "through me" that you gain your worth and value anyways. Actually, without me nobody will want you and you will be ALONE/SINGLE FOREVER!."

 Just make a few substitutions here and you have the God of the Bible, telling you that without him, you will burn (alone) forever.Do you recognize this? Many young women today have boyfriends who treat them with this exact pattern of behavior- but the irony is that the God of the Bible appears to act (and think) in the exact same way.
This is not a healthy or productive behavior but it appears to be a common theme of manipulative, sociopathic individuals throughout the course of our history. When you see the above pattern of behavior displayed by any supposed deity or person, take pause, it's probably coming from the mind of a psychopath and usually a male (females have much lower rates of psycopathy throughout the course of human history).
The behavior described above reminds me of how masters treat their slaves or how captives treat their victims. It's called "Stockholm syndrome."
Now back to "sin". It's certainly reasonable to think that humans are imperfect. But we do not need a devil or deity or an afterlife to tell us this. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that they were perfect.
We are goverrned by both virtues and vices and we have a limited and fallible brain. We often do behave in ways that indulge the less virtuous side of our nature. We take short cuts at the expense of future well-being. In many cases we take the self absorbent path and do not defer gratification so we act out in what are called "sins" such as rage, lust, violence, impoliteness, dishonesty, debt, selfishness, overeating (because it feels better in the moment).
I tend to see "sin" not as some offense to a mystical being (that we have no physical way of testing the existence of and thus proving it's existence)-- but rather as David Brooks eloquently states in his secular book, "The Road to Character". This is the most reasonable look at what can be considered "sin" that I've ever encountered yet.
Regarding sin he States the following:
"Sin is a necessary piece of our mental furniture because it reminds us that life is a moral affair. No matter how hard we try to reduce everything to deterministic brain chemistry, no matter how hard we try to reduce behavior to the set of herd instinct that is captured in big data, no matter how hard we strive to replace sin with nonmoral words like "mistake" or "error" or "weakness, the most essential parts of life are matters of individual responsibility ad moral choice: whether to be brave or cowardly, honest or deceitful, compassionate or callous, faithful or disloyal."
and here:
"We really do have dappled souls. The same ambition that drives us to build a new company also drives us to be materialistic and to exploit. The same lust that lead to children, leads to adultery. The same confidence that can lead to daring and creativity can lead to self worship and arrogance."
 and here:
"Sin is not some demonic thing. It's just our perverse tendency to fuck things up, to favor the short term over the long term, the lower over the higher. Sin, when it is committed over and over again hardens to loyalty to a lower love. The danger with sin, in other words, is that it feeds on itself. Small moral compromises on Monday make you more likely to commit even bigger moral compromises on Tuesday. A person lies to himself and can no longer distinguish when he is lying to himself and when he isn't."
and here:
"A person is consumed by the sin of self-pity, a passion to be righteous victim that devours everything around it as surely as anger and greed. People rarely commit big sins out of the blue. They walk through a series of doors. They have an unchecked problem with anger. They have an unchecked problem with drinking or drugs.
"The final reason sin is a necessary part of our mental furniture is that without it, the whole method of character building dissolves. From time immemorial, people have achieved glory by achieving great external things, but they have built character by struggling against their internal sins. People become solid, stable and worthy of self-respect because they have defeated or at least struggled with their demons. If you take away the concept of sin, you take away the thing that the good person struggles against."
and here...
"Our days are filled with moral occasions."
 Many Christians will jump in at this point once hearing these quotes and emphasize that "sin" is ultimately our nature that "goes against God". Thus, according to the Christian, sin is more a corruption of our own nature that goes against "God himself"-- it isn't simply a list of our misdeeds and misbehaviors. Rather, these misdeeds and misbehaviors reflect our being's fallen state with relation to the divine, perfect being--God.
Now, I want you to recognize that the Christian understanding of sin goes against the common, everyday understanding of "sin" held by the average person who isn't concerned with theology or philosophy.
People think of "their sin" in relationship to others-- to other HUMANS WHO PHYSICALLY EXIST. How did I betray my friend? Did I act selfishly to my husband the other day? Did I treat the checker at the grocery store rudely? Could I have driven less aggressively? Should I have given that homeless man some cash? Am I coming across as arrogant? Should I have spent less time on the internet and more time playing with my children? Should I have been more generous with my time...compliments...or knowledge to others?
And this is what makes sense, what is the most salient for us to understand. We only need to live in a society-- among OTHER PEOPLE to come to the realization that our behavior is going to have an effect on not just ourselves, but others. There are clearly certain behaviors that are going to help society and others that are less helpful, or even hurtful.
The Christian View of Sin and humans:
The Christian view of sin is that you as a human are so wretched and lowly that the only worth you have is in Christ/God. In fact, anything good you do isn't even valued or taken into the equation. Its worthless---you're worthless.
This is not a healthy mindset for any human to have. It is not a recipe for personal responsibility-- but rather a recipe for thinking that your life is shuffled by the hands of a force outside yourself-- until problems and mistakes arise and guess who gets the blame!? You do!
In other words, you get the full blame for the misdeeds and "sins" you commit, but you do not get to take any of the responsibility or pride for the good that you do-- because remember, it's not your works that get you into heaven (as lambasted incessantly by Christian Protestants).

It doesn't matter if the concepts of sin and/or salvation are different between Christianity and Islam. We still need to examine the theology/philosophy behind these religious doctrines and see if they work...if they actually make sense in the world we interact with.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

To my Fundamentalist Parents

I wish you could understand me. I wish we could connect and really relate. After all, the word "relationship" has the very word "relate" in it.

But the truth is, this will never happen the way I would like. I do understand you...but you will never understand me.

Your religion....your religious delusions about so many things will hinder you from truly understanding me. After all, these delusions of yours are used to define me-- to determine who I am, and, more specifically, why I am the way I am.

You allow a largely fallacious set of views to characterize me-- even before asking me about anything.

When you allow an ancient book (and your preferred interpretations of it) the ability to determine everything around you-- why everything is the way it is and why people behave the way they do, you are bound to get a very distorted view of the world and the people in it.

The Christian religion isn't very different from other religions in as much as it has built upon assumptions about a number of things. One of thoes things is the "Inerancy of Scripture". There is this assumption that the Bible is free of errors and that it is divinely written and inspired and so it is the source that a Christian goes to in order to determine all things. If the Bible says something about science, then, it is that account that is taken as authoritative and true, even if it happens to go against a natural/scientific account.

The Bible does not say anything specific about the natural world but it does seem to say plenty of specific things about the "spiritual realm"--claims that conveniently can't be tested or falsified in the first place--because, after all, these are things that are not part of this world. They are beyond this world. How nicely convenient to be able to escape the necessity of providing rational thought and arguments for such beliefs.

I love you but I often feel sad about our relationship. I see so many other parent-child relationships where the parents are just happy to be with their children and share a relationship with them--not incessantly longing for their children to be converts to their particular ideology. Not constantly worried that their children will end up in hell. I know these thoughts are on your minds at all times. People that you know have conducted themselves in this life FAR WORSE than the average person but are guaranteed a spot in heaven, simply because they expressed faith--while I, your disbelieving daughter, will likely go to hell.

When I asked you the other night if the Jews would be in the same place as their killer, Hitler--in Hell, right? You made reservations for them. You didn't seem to let this make you feel uneasy about the theology you uphold. You were able to suggest that "Well we don't know everything about God and his plan. We know so little.". You can use that same logic for me then. You can rest assured that I won't be going to hell no matter what I think or believe.

 Loreen thinks the same way. We met for coffee a few days ago and during a pause in our conversation she said, "Renee, I'd like to get serious with you. You probably know where I'm going with this already....but I'm concerned about you. I'm concerned about your kids. I think about you a lot and how you've lost your faith...I think about how it must hurt your family...your parents! Your parents must be so worried for you. You know there is a heaven and a hell and there's a God."

Hearing her admonishment didn't bother me for one second. I didn't feel uneasy or "spiritually bullied" because I've heard it before and I really do understand how Christians think (because I once thought the exact same way!). Because of this, I can have empathy for Christians and their response to me. They mean well but it does get tiresome to deal with people inside a box--who have no capacity to see beyond it. Now that I've stepped out, I can see beyond the box...I can still though, understand exactly how they think.