Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Danger of Religion

The following I've copied.  The original is by Craig Hart in a book titled, Passing Through, published in 2011:
Part memoir, part religious critique, and part philosophical treatise, “Passing Through” traces the author's path from the controlling environment of fundamentalism to the formation of the theory of Energetic Universalism. It examines various facets of the fundamentalist Christian faith, including the inerrancy of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus Christ. “Passing Through” takes an honest look at the existence of God and the danger of religion.
according to

What I like is the basic rebuttal of the arrogance of any fundamentalist whether Christian, Muslim or even I suppose atheist.  I am of course reminded of this following the Boston bombing and the putative Via Rail bombing.

This is Chapter 8:
My heart tells me there is a god.  [Not me, but that's beside the point here.]  Yours may tell you something different.  I am okay with that.  Fundamentalists are not.  This defines the greatest complaint I have with fundamentlism as a whole.  They are dissatisfied with and unable to accept the fact that someone might disagree with their belief system.  They are determined -- required, really -- to go beyond a friendly disagreement.  They must convert the unbeliever. 
To be fair, one must realise that a cornerstone of religion is conversion.  A religion without converts will quickly fade and die.  To truly accept a religion, with all its nebulous facets and airy promises, one must wholly embrace it.  One must become a near fanatic.  Anyone who feels strongly enough to convert will likely feel strongly enough to share it with others and be disappointed when they don't exhibit the same level of enthusiasm. 
Imagine a co-worker arriving at the office with pictures of the new baby in the family.  The co-worker is ecstatic and flaunts the photos relentlessly.  To avoid hurt feelings, it is expected that everyone show at least a measure of interest, even though nobody really cares.  There are times when people simply must share personal experiences.  Religion, with its innately personal and often inspiring tendencies, qualifies as such. 
So we can excuse the zealous convert, can we not?  They may be annoying at the office, but no more so than the guy who screams at the copy machine or the woman who wears too much perfume. 
Of course, it goes deeper than that.  Believers are often genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of the person they are attempting to convert.  They are convinced that if they do not succeed in winning them to Christ, the sinner will die and spend eternity in hell.  Believers are often required to visit the "highways and byways" in search of converts.  In my church, for example, you were considered to have blood on your hands -- be partially responsible for the sinner's damnation -- if you didn't do all you could to turn them onto the straight and narrow.  "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."  (Mark 16:15) 
My argument is not with the fact that someone accepts a faith, feels good about it, and wants to share.  My argument is with the believer who demands my conversion or else.  The office worker may force me to look at the baby pictures and I'll survive, but when they say that I must either agree that it's the cutest baby ever of go to hell, well, that's crossing the line. 
The sheer arrogance of this approach is simply mind-boggling.  I feel somewhat like Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great, when he says he will need to hear a lot more.
I find myself in strong agreement with Craig.  I can't recommend the rest of the book, not having read it, and know nothing yet of "Energetic Universalism," but on the strength of chapter 8, it deserves a look.  I can of course recommend almost anything written by Christopher Hitchens since he is one of my atheist mentors.  He rarely disappoints.