Monday, June 19, 2006

The Church of Trout, Part 2: Saving Yourself from Christianism

I need to preface all of the following with an explanation about why I'm writing about religion in the first place. For one thing, I haven't always been completely honest with people about my beliefs – a local friend of mine is an assistant pastor and a hell-and-brimstone religious wacko. He used to be a good guy (a great guy, actually), but after seeing his parenting skills, fueled by scripture and bullying patriarchy, I get angrier and angrier at him. And I've never been totally straight with my family, either (several of whom read this blog), but that was probably because until recently I've never been too clear on the subject. Mostly, though, I've never been honest with anyone about religion because, well, I really hate offending people. But the more I see religion effing up the world, the less I care about offending.

Another reason I'm writing about religion is that I see a scary trend developing in the U.S. in which religious extremism holds sway over politics (nothing new there) and, now, public institutions like universities and even worse, our private lives. I'll put up with a lot of shit from believers like my friend, but I won't put up with someone else's belief system interfering with my rights to privacy, free speech, or pursuit of happiness.

And so when I unload on organized religion I may irritate or even lose some of my 200 million readers. That's not my intent, but if you're offended by what I'm about to write, maybe that's proof that you need to hear it.

To the religious right, believing in Christ is not enough. One must believe in a very specific brand of Christianity, and anything else is hell-bound heathenism. This kind of belief obviously isn't limited to Christianity in the U.S., but it is the only belief system you or I can do anything about in the course of our daily lives (I mean, if you really, really, really wanted to confront radical Islam, you could join the Marines and try to kill a few of 'em). I'd even argue that if you find yourself condemning other belief systems, maybe you're closer to the religious right than you'd care to admit, and had damn well better do some self-evaluation.

Now, before anyone starts screaming "hypocrite!" at their screen, let me assure you that my problems are not with the existence of religion, only in the divisive nature of organized religion. As I wrote earlier in a comment thread, there's something profound about the human condition and it's only natural that we sentient types search for ways to express it. And I am not condemning people for condemning someone else. I simply believe that any group which lays claim to heaven is totally full of shit, and I want you, readers, to fully understand the implications of narrow-minded faith.

Which brings me back to the religious right. Someone on the Internet referred to them as "Christianists," and I like that term a lot. The connotation is a focus not on Christ but on a cultish following. It denotes anyone whose Christian beliefs focus more on judgment, Leviticus-style, than on Christ's teachings. It denotes exclusion, blithe rejection of the human condition, and hate.

The easiest way to identify Christianists is to gauge the degree to which they interpret the Bible literally. I don't know about you, but when a geologist PhD tells me the earth is about 4 billion years old, well, I believe it. I mean hell, who'd know how old the earth is better than a geologist, right? Who could possibly argue with the fossil record? Why, the Christianists, that's who!

Of course, we all know the full-blown Christianist wackos when we see 'em. The troubling part for me is that they've been more aggressive politically, and unless you believe the earth is 6,000 years old, this surge of extremism poses a direct and immediate threat to American ideals of freedom and individualism. These folks don't just want you to believe, act, and pray a certain way – they want control of all aspects of your life. They can't handle a multicultural America; they can't handle difference. And ultimately that's what kills me about Christianists: they're lazy. They'd rather wallow in self-righteousness than go out and do Christ's work.

So what, exactly, do we do? For starters, we vote. Vote against people who belong to fundamentalist churches – these types of politicians are usually not shy about their beliefs, but it will also pay to research candidates' beliefs at all levels of government. For another, call up your congressional representatives when any legislation is in the works dictating what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes. More on that in another post.

Finally – and this is the hardest one for me – stop putting up with crap from Christianists in person. If they're comfortable telling you about how, when Jesus returns, "believers will be walking the earth as nine foot giants on fire" (direct quote from aforementioned friend), then perhaps we should be comfortable telling them that's not how we understand Christ, or pyrotechnics for that matter. And then maybe offer them a complimentary copy of the Bhagavad-Gita, freshly acquired from the hari krishna on the corner.


At 1:25 PM, Blogger Sir Dennis said...

Oh! Oh! Do I smell a burning bridge? Hope you and your friend can talk these things out and agree to disagree. Friends, even wierd ones, are hard to find, and, even harder to keep.

On a different front, one section of your blog stands out and can’t go unquestioned. You wrote...

"Christianists: they're lazy. They'd rather wallow in self-righteousness than go out and do Christ's work."

As a matter of fairness and balance (to both yourself and your readers), and, ignoring for a moment your pissed-off state toward “Christianists,” I feel it’s time you share an equally eloquent blog detailing YOUR beliefs and/or knowledge of who Jesus Christ was in His time, and, your feelings of what kind of work should one be doing in His name in today’s world.

From the mind (strained as it is at the moment) of a person who cares... Dennis

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Trout said...

Due respect, but I don't need a long entry detailing what Christ's work is/would be:

1. Teaching compassion by example. Compassion - not hate, not fear, not superiority.
2. Everything else - helping the poor and downtrodden, etc. - stems from #1.

Christ's work in his time doesn't need to be predicated on his status as the son of God to be understood and appreciated; he scared the Romans (and by extension the collaborating Jews) precisely because his teachings challenged their political and religious authority. And the Romans, for all their engineering and political contributions, were generally brutal ("brutal" - HA!) people. So while it's obvious that Christ changed the world in important and good ways, Christianity, along with innumerable other organized religions, assumes authority from a promise that no one can prove.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Sir Dennis said...

..."no one can prove"

I'll get back to you on that (Ha! Get it?)... D

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Trout said...

Heh heh. Good stuff there.

I'll be taking a break from the religious stuff for a while. Look for posts (and hopefully pics) about my current excursion in Denver.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger NeverEnough said...

Haha! I so agree. Right on brother Trout :)

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous timothy Potten said...

religious right-wingers of any kind freak me out, no matter what there are representing. balance and repecting others is key.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous timothy Potten said...

religious right-wingers of any kind freak me out, no matter what they are representing. balance and repecting others is key.


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