Saturday, May 18, 2013

Admit Your Fear of Death

Admit it. You're afraid of dying.

But so is just about everyone else. It's part of the reason we need gods, why we need to believe in an afterlife or reincarnation, heaven and hell. It's a key component of human religious experience. 

To deny this is to deny reality and deny the unknown. If you know that there is a heaven and there is a hell, if you know that you are saved from the flames by the blood, then your knowledge is greater than mine. I do not, cannot know these things until I die. To confuse faith in salvation with knowledge is to claim greater knowledge than any human is endowed with. 

The scriptures tell you you're saved. You believe in them. I can respect that. To acknowledge that you choose to believe of your own accord, in spite of a lack of proof, shows spiritual strength, a gift of God.  I can respect that. To insist that the truth of the scriptures is provable is unnecessary and unconvincing. 

There is much subtlety here. On the one hand, blind faith in religion can have serious negative consequences on individuals and groups, populations even. The Inquisition, the Crusades or suicide cults, for example. What I'm interested in encountering is a faith that is unafraid to question itself, even to the very fundamentals, to the roots. It is a faith that is unafraid to admit that it may be wrong, or at least that others may be right as well.

The questions I asked were meant to be provocative, even to agitate, and in that regard, highly successful. I must thank my mother in law for sharing the post and generating so much extra traffic to my blog, and thereby exposing so many people to these questions and many other views I've expressed here. 

The questions I asked do not denigrate the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ, St. Paul or any other Christian leader. Mostly they ask for some answers concerning human behavior, exhibited contemporaneously by Christians living in the same town I live in, behavior I've witnessed first hand in my daily life, for all of my life. To deny that these behaviors exist shows either dishonesty or a disconnect with reality. For a whole group of people to immediately go into apologetics mode and try to make a hypocrite out of the writer using the same lock-step sunday-school methods shows that the questions struck a nerve, and also demonstrates a lack of original, probing thought on the part of the majority of the responders.

I asked some questions. I was met with a range of responses across several online platforms, from the support of friends to outright rage and hostility from friends and strangers alike. It's been interesting, to say the least. A few answered all of the questions fully. These were the best, most interesting answers. I've also had many attacks on the questions themselves, attacks on the provability of physical evidence, a repetitive "2+2" argument, plus a treatment all around, from everyone who responded - friends and strangers alike - (except Lily, Josh, Lucy and Jake - thanks y'all!) as if I'd never heard the Gospels before, as if I'd never read them or thought about them, as if I'd never even heard of them. I claim no expertise in all things Biblical, but I'm also no stranger to them.

Some particularly repetitive arguments I received were that everyone feels that their beliefs are correct, that everyone confuses his or her beliefs with knowledge and that there is no such thing as tolerance because even the tolerant are intolerant of intolerance. Does anyone reading this even occassionally consult a dictionary? Does everyone involved in this argument deal only in absolutes, in a world of black and white where there are no gradations of color?

Tolerance means that someone puts up with people and ideas that are different from his or her own. Even neo-nazis must exercise tolerance for most of their lives, for if they dedicated their lives to hate crimes their lives would be very short indeed, with disproportionately long periods of incarceration. Nowhere in the definition of tolerance is there any suggestion that in order to be tolerant in any particular situation one must be absolutely tolerant of all things at all times. 

Nowhere have I claimed to be absolutely tolerant, ever in my life, in speech or writing. In fact, if you read this blog all the way through you will find many things that are quite difficult for me to tolerate. I asked the questions to get your views on your brand of intolerance, a type which spills over into the political arena and affects the daily lives of populations.

Damn right I am intolerant of public bigotry towards gays, lesbians and transgendered people, environmental negligence, carelessness towards war and capital punishment in spite of hysteria towards abortion. 

Call me a hypocrite all you want about whatever you want, and if you're right - I'll own it. 

I've read repeatedly that everyone is a hypocrite in some way or another. Fine. I can accept that. But will you own up to your own hypocrisy, which wants to protect every fetus but couldn't give two shits about millions of dead - including many, many children - across Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America at the hands of the U.S. military and their torture training and "aid" in the form of weapons over the past 60 or so years? Is it because they are so far away from you that you care not for them, that you have no desire to end violence against them that is commited on your "behalf," violence committed supposedly for your freedom, violence you pay for and support with your tax dollars? Maybe it's because the civilian death-tolls in those other parts of the world aren't widely reported by U.S. corporate "news" media, and you just never thought about what those countries have paid for our imposition of "democracy" on them. Or perhaps it's because Asians, Arabs and Latinos are simply the wrong color.

Damn right I am intolerant towards unflinching defense of firearms in a country where nearly twice as many women have been killed by domestic violence since 2003 than all U.S. military men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same period!

What do you have to say to that?