Thursday, February 09, 2012
Demonizing religion misses the truth
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This is in response to the commentary by Robert Boyd, "Are we becoming a theocracy?" (Jan. 7). The professor offers a laundry list of the evils of evangelicals and Republicans, thoroughly dripping with overblown stereotypes and bad history. I'll not get into the politics, but rather will focus on one point he makes when he speaks of "monotheistic religions that throughout history have engaged in repeated campaigns to suppress science, women and sexuality" and wars caused by religion.
Every religion has skewed adherents, often to the point of horribly misrepresenting the group they claim to represent. An abortionist protest-bomber no more represents true Christianity than the soldier who murdered a black person in Wyoming a few years ago represented the U.S. Army. You can wear the badge of religion or any other group and do evil, yet not truly represent your organization.
This even goes for wars carried out in the name of religion. I tire of the old "religion is the source of all evils and wars" rant. I admit that the misappropriation and misuse of religion has been used for bad things; and yes, that includes the Crusades. Further, since early human history shows basically all peoples held religious beliefs, it's no wonder religion got entangled in conflict. But misuse of Christianity does not negate the reality and truth of its meaning and purpose.
Think of it: You have the core of Christianity represented by one who preached of love, self-sacrifice, caring for others, universal brotherhood of all persons and God's yearning for relationship. Condemn all the misguided evils in the name of religion, but it's hard to denounce the virtues mentioned above. Being a Baptist, I guess I'm an evangelical, but not even all evangelicals think the same. Don't lump us all together.
Do I as a minister want to see the world embrace Christianity? Sure, but in the open marketplace of ideas, with no coercion. No edge of the sword here. No beheading of someone who won't adhere. The Christian's weapons are prayer, helping those in need and showing that love is ideal, and that God is light and love.
Boyd castigates "monotheistic religions" for suppressing science, women, etc. Unfortunately, Boyd is holding to some rather sad rewriting of history.
Albert Einstein famously said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." In his Principia, Sir Isaac Newton stated, "The most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." Maybe more Deist than Christian, but we see more harmony than hostility between religion and science. Meanwhile, you'll find plenty of current scientists, such as some nuclear or theoretical physicists who now speak of seeing the "fingerprint of God" in creation, along with theologians who today embrace science as part of the beauty of God's creation.
Finally, a word about the oppressive nature of religion to women. I can speak only of Christianity when I cite Paul in the New Testament proclaiming that there is no difference between Jew and Greek, male and female under Christ. To minimize the uproar of change, he accommodated some customs of the time. Goodness, we have to remember the whole world was quite male chauvinistic in the deep past. But his message brought a radical and newer concept forward. He even encouraged women (by name) to the role of teaching and leading in the church.
So, enough of this "religion is the cancer of humanity" polemic. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation states, "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds," it is lumping religion with its corruptions into one little ball, and it misses the truth.
Meanwhile, I can find values that I can agree with in some other faiths: the peace-loving Buddhists, the positive values of Mormons and the love of God of my Jewish friends. Rather than being the bane of society, many faiths contribute what is positive in our lives.
Final word of warning: Don't let the religion decriers end up demonizing and thus squashing religion from our country. We'll be the worse off for it.