Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Religious Person? Dahhhling, how mahhhvelous!

Other blogs frequently provide me with material for this one. As I am an essayist, rather than a journalist (in other words, predominantly a creative writer), I work in a rather different way than do many bloggers. Often, instead of merely borrowing something another blogger has said, I get insights from a blog its author may never have intended -- indeed, may not see him/herself. And the commentary thread of a blog posting is often the richest insight- motherlode of all.

I don't want to embarrass anybody, so I may not necessarily cite here the blogs from which these insights come. I'm not quoting anyone else, after all, nor are the ideas I am expressing theirs. I don't know if very many other bloggers are doing this, but as we definitely need more original thought in the blogosphere, I'm perfectly happy to help start a new trend.

At a libertarian blog I particularly like, a commentary debate has erupted over whether environmentalism is a religion. I made no bones, in this thread, about the fact that I consider at least the extremist version of it a religion. Many at the more-extreme end of the enviro movement actually consider the earth a goddess -- they call her Gaia -- and they believe that all of life on earth is part of a web that makes the whole something more than its parts. Human beings are not regarded, by these folks, as any more sacred or even important than bats, butterflies or influenza. As a matter of fact, on the whole, they tend to think of us as somewhat less desirable than influenza -- rather their own version, I suppose, of the Serpent in Eden.

Christian libertarians seem to be in the minority. Go to any libertarian site, and its commentary threads are dominated by self-impressed young things, quite sure they're too smart to believe in God. Whenever a comment of mine exposes my religious convictions (as happens frequently), I can almost feel their revulsion through my computer screen.

I rather picture it thus: peering at me through the monocle (or perhaps even the magnifying glass), one says as an aside to another, "Oh, how QUAINT! An actual religious person! How amusing! How totally mahhhhvelous!"

Of course, they tend to interpret "religion" so narrowly that only those of very traditional, theistic faiths -- Christian, Jewish or Muslim -- count as "religious people." Nothing any less traditional, or more avant-garde, than these old standards seem to qualify.

Now, on this other blog's latest thread, I basically farted in church. I said that I define religion as any individual's beliefs about the ultimate matters of life: why we're here, what life is all about, etc. Well, some of the other commenters did NOT appreciate being told they had a -- sniff here of pure indignation -- religion. Religion being, after all, for the great and ignorant unwashed out there. The folks, I would suspect, who don't recognize the commenters' brilliance.

When I attempt to explain my position, and am either shouted down or simply ignored, I come here to clarify. I suppose that is, at the most basic level, what one's own blog is for. So here I go.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of religious expression for ALL the citizens in this great country of ours. A great many on the Religious Right, however, would like to change that. They are now trying to claim that anyone who does not allow them to force their beliefs on everybody else is VIOLATING THEIR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. If they get their way, the non-establishment clause of the Constitution will be obliterated, in favor of popular-majority rule.

They are already quite openly committed to this agenda. I hear all the time, for example, even from people who ought to know better, that Right-Wing Christians "have a right" to step all over gays and lesbians. Why? Well, because it is a form of "religious expression" for them, and therefore sacrosanct.

Never mind the religious freedom of the gays and lesbians, whose deepest convictions may run counter to what these bullies desire. Or that of the heterosexual Christians who do NOT believe "homosexuality" to be a sin, and who may even see it as a matter of religious conviction to support gay rights. Only the most popular religious beliefs -- those held by the noisy majority, and backed by most of the money -- are considered worthy of protection anymore.

I would vote for an atheist who loved this country and respected the Constitution before I would vote for a "Christian" who holds his fellow-Americans in contempt and uses the Constitution for toilet paper. Make of that whatever you will. But the Religious Right has just about seen to it that nobody who isn't conventionally religious has a hope of running for political office in this country. Poll after poll shows they'd have trouble becoming dogcatcher.

If the pinkie-in-the-air, self-appointed elites who disdain traditional religion don't get their heads out of their keysters pretty soon, they may find themselves relegated to second-class citizenship in every way. Get over yourselves, for crying out loud, and listen to reason. You're supposed to be able to do that, aren't you? You seem, as a matter of fact, to think you're the ONLY ones who can.

It is in your own best interest -- no matter HOW irreligious or anti-religious you consider yourself -- to see religion defined not narrowly, but as broadly as possible. Religion can also be whatever you believe in the place of religion -- however "non-religious" it may seem. If you are an atheist, that is a religion. It is, in fact, one of the oldest religions in the world: one that predates monotheism by thousands of years.

And if you're an agnostic, again, please get over the wonderful aroma of your own flatulence. EVERYBODY -- and I mean EVERY FREAKIN' BODY -- is actually an agnostic, according to the strict definition of the word. All an agnostic really is is somebody who doesn't KNOW whether God exists. Well, join the club. Faith is not certain knowledge; it is what must suffice, for theistic believers, in the place of the certitude that, in this world, none of us is granted.

The fine-tuned definition of an agnostic, most useful for today, is someone who thinks there might possibly be a god (or gods) out there, but who rejects the possibility that the divine has seen fit to reveal itself to us. It is actually about as far-removed from atheism as it is from theism. Atheists and agnostics both tend to believe what they believe because they think they're smarter than everybody else. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, except when their vanity blinds them to their own best interests.

"Freedom of religious expression" means the liberty to answer the ultimate questions of human life in the way that makes the most sense to you. That is certainly how the Founders of this nation -- some of the most significant of whom were NOT Bible-believing Christians -- intended it to be understood. If you're SOOOO terrified of getting "religious" cooties that you disdain the protection you deserve under our Constitution -- the protection and respect its own framers intended you to have -- then all I can say is that you're not quite as sharp as you think you are.

Even an idiot is utterly convinced that he's a genius. Thinking you're smart may not exactly be the same thing as being there.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger Jim Freeman said...

Bravo. Always well to remember what the FFs had to say--"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782


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