We don't agree about everything and that's OK. What we do agree on is the need to carry on the discussion in a civil way.

Before you contribute to a discussion, familiarize yourself with logical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated.

The goal here is for civil conversation so be nice; no profanity. Anyone who calls another person an idiot will be banned.

Lastly remember, when someone disagrees with your views it does not mean they like you less as a person. If you can't handle being disagreed with then go away.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How much do you know about your own religion?

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers.

This is important to me because it illustrates what I've been trying to say, but not doing a very good job. If you don't know what other world religions teach, let alone the doctrines of your own religion, how on earth can you be so confident that you're right? 

What is so disheartening to me is the number of White Protestants who got the basic things about their own religion wrong.  33% think "Do unto others ..." is in the 10 Commandments [Jesus said it, thousands of years after Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments], 60% think Catholics take communion symbolically [the doctrine of transubstantiation teaches that the bread and wine change into the substance of Christ's body] and only slight more than half (of the protestants!)  know who inspired the Protestant Reformation.

If you scored low on this test, and especially if you scored low on your own religions questions, please do study the history of your religion. The Christian faith has not always been a monolith with a few minor differences between denominations. It seems today that many people think of the differences in Christian denominations like the difference in sports fandom - so what if I like the Vikings and you like the Patriots, we both like football, just different teams. What you really have to watch out for are those hockey fans.  But the reality is nothing could be further from the truth ... Catholics and Protestants were killing each other for centuries over things that seem so minor to us today (transubstantion, sola fide, indulgences, etc). 

For centuries theologians, church fathers and philosophers mulled over these very important issues. The idea of salvation through faith alone took a long time to be developed. Study the history of the faith, watch how the doctrines evolve, change and get dismissed. At one time in history, it was widely held that women did not have to worry about salvation, as long as they bore children, they would be saved (look it up, that's in the Bible 1 Timothy 2:15) .  

Please don't interpret this as an attack on any of you, I have a deep appreciation of all the world's religions, even if I don't believe them. But if there is one point to make it is this: 

When you claim your faith is the exclusive way to salvation because the plan is very clearly and obviously laid out in the Bible, you have failed to understand how any of these doctrines came to be. You are no better than the people who pick and choose from all the world's religions, a little of this, a little of that ... take out THAT part, maybe half of this line ....  Centuries of consideration, examination, searching, debating, voting, and bloodshed have gone into each of those tenants you hold so dear and consider self evident 2,000 years later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The left and right need each

Moving away from religion for a while, I want to talk about something even more divisive -- politics.  But I'm not going to preach about why we liberals are awesome and those crazy conservatives should be locked away. I'm going to preach against that very notion.

Both sides of the political spectrum bring balance to the equation. The liberal brain is fundamentally different than the conservative brain. Liberals tend to be more willing to embrace change, to seek harmony and equality, and to question authority. Their houses also tend to be messier. Conservatives are more likely to embrace respect for authority and elders, to take decisive action, to preserve traditions. They balance each other out.

I once had a friendship where we trusted each other enough to tell the other when she was being an idiot. If I would complain about a situation at work that I felt was unfair, she could remind me that this is how the world works, and I can accept it and move on or I can try to fight it and be angry. When she complained about her husband doing something amazingly stupid and threatening to throw his clothes on the lawn, I reminded her that it only seems like a big deal right now and he has lots of other good qualities. Neither of us wanted to hear these things at the time, but because we both knew we were speaking from a place of love and understanding, it was just what we needed to hear.

Liberals and conservatives could learn from this model. If more liberals realized that conservatives are not gun-toting facists out to shoot everyone who disagrees with way they want the world to be, we could all work together. If conservatives could recognize that the greatest changes in history have come by challenging the status quo, we could affect change we need. We could COMPROMISE which is the essence of politics.

Lately it seems like we're getting further away from this ideal. Liberals want to rewire the Conservatives brains so they can "think straight" and Conservatives want Liberals to stop hugging those damn trees and go to church and "live right." This is not helping our nation that we all share.

If there is anything I've learned in my life it is that it is possible, and at times amazingly awesome, to hold different views and opinions as someone else and still get along. You can learn a lot from someone who doesn't think exactly like you.

It's important to call out the really big, hairy mistakes but if we can do it from a place of understanding, with the goal of creating a better world, we'd all be better off.

I know, typical naive liberal.  :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Freedom of Religion

I know many Christians lament our pluralistic, secular society and want nothing more than a return to the Christian days of yore. Of course, history bears out the fact that these "good old days" they pine for were from about 1950 to 1958. The founding fathers weren't religious fanatics, but whatever.

While I reject the truth claims of Christianity, I respect others who believe it. I also respect the beliefs of people who think the spirit of God can be found in nature, and the beliefs of people who think there is no God at all. That's precisely what make us such a great nation, I think. Because we have to be tolerant of other religions, other worldviews, we never get so comfortable into thinking everyone believes exactly the same thing. That kind of thinking is dangerous and leads to Sharia law.

So, the people like Christian apologist Dr. Norm Giesler really make me sad and angry. He is a fundamentalist who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, teaches that practicing yoga and meditation is simply an open invitation to communion with demons, and actively proclaims that Christian theology must permeate every aspect of American life.

I support Dr. Giesler's freedom to believe whatever he wants, but not his insistence on being 100% correct and demanding that all others behave exactly like him.