Friday, December 5, 2008

I Ridicule Your Faith, I Ridicule You

This blog entry has been painful to ponder, painful to write. But it's important that I discuss my feelings about the latest two salvos pitting gays and lesbians against African-Americans and Mormons in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California. On Dec. 4, NPR's All Things Considered carried an interview with a Black lesbian in which she expressed as much bitterness toward the LGBT community as toward the 76 percent of Black women who voted for Proposition 8. She said that gays not only failed to make a concerted effort to reach out to the Black community, but they had a habit of simply dismissing faith-based Blacks in the aftermath of the vote, because of the role Black churches played in encouraging their congregations to vote against gay marriage. Left unsaid in the NPR analysis was the notion that this may not have been an issue of race, but an issue of finding Black evangelical churches strange. Conservatives in the U.S. down on Rev. Wright know this problem - it isn't just cultural differences, it's that evangelical churches of all stripes believe in 12 impossible things before breakfast.

On Dec. 5, the New York Times carried a full-page ad on "No Mob Veto" (no online reference, sorry!) that lambastes the gay community for disrupting Mormon services. I agree with this ad, as far as the issue of freedom of religion plays out. We need mutual respect in our lives. And Mormons have the right to mobilize their base to be involved politically. Nevertheless, I don't have to respect their faith. Faith necessarily involves a suspension of logic and a belief in supernatural events. At least with mainstream Christianity, we have physical evidence for the existence of Christ and many of the things that took place in the New Testament. (Hey, Catholics, we don't have evidence for most of the miraculous events attributed to saints! Take your relics and shove 'em.) The nature of resurrection is where faith comes in. But the Mormon Church has several elements in its doctrine that we know to be false - Jesus visiting North America, etc. Put bluntly, the Mormon faith is a collection of foolish fables.

A similar issue outraged me a couple years ago with the protests in Europe over the Danish cartoonists who made fun of Muhammad. Muslims do not believe that freedom of speech includes the right to blaspheme. I absolutely disagree with them, though the intersection of freedom of speech and religion gives rise to circumstances where blasphemy easily can be defined as hate speech. Nevertheless, because of imposed conversions and the notion of jihad (jihad as war, not as quest), I consider virtually all types of Islam outside Sufism to be foolish.

How to get beyond these feelings and into an area of mutual respect? We may be standing on the precipice of an outright war between African-Americans and Mormons on the one hand, and LGBT individuals and their supporters on the other. I do think there are analogies between Black and gay struggles. We are at a position today where gays have won general acceptance, but the rejection of gay marriage still has a long way to go. And the biggest obstacle to that acceptance are faith-based beliefs that are outmoded and strange.

Here's how I handle this in my personal life: I tell people that I choose what I wish from the Bible, Quran, and other books of wisdom, and I rip out the passages that offend me. That is not selective value-free faith. If the Christian faith was big enough from Christ's death through the Council of Nicea to embrace Nestorianism, Arianism, and the like, then I can make up my faith as I go along, rejecting silly disprovable theories. Remember, as Jorge Luis Borges said, our present Bible was based on political editing decisions made in 325 A.D. The alternative Gnostic and Nestorian interpretations only sound strange to us because "Rome won." Your belief doctines are based on political choices. And I choose to flaunt my heretic pride. And I choose to ridicule your faith if it flies in the face of scientific evidence or modern cultural mores.

Oh, and in the battle for public space between atheists and holiday well-wishers, let me wish you all Merry Christmas! Just don't be dopes or dupes for God.


Ruth said...

I wanna let this sink in and to think some more on it. But first off I say yes, any proximity I have to Christianity any more is Gnostic, and I too pick and choose the tenets from different faiths that suit me. I always sought the underlying truth, below religion, even as a kid. But parents couldn't break out of the box.

Truth is within me, in spite of mainstream and fundamentalist efforts to dictate what is true. I do have some tolerance for stuff that hasn't been proven scientifically though, even some pretty wild experiences that rauf would call frontal lobe epilepsy. (Like Rumi visiting me and saying "This moment is eternal." Well, that was in my post-Christian spiritual days, which ain't no more so much, but I still give it a bit of fond creedence. But I wouldn't start a cult based on my experiences. It was for me, quietly.)

Anywho, I'll ruminate on the gay/lesbian-AA/Mormon brouhaha.

Ruth said...

And by Gnostic I don't mean material things are evil. More about the broader inclusion of us being divine ourselves, Sophia as a God character, and some other stuff.

Loring Wirbel said...

And I absolutely believe in resonances and parallel universes and forces that cannot be explained through observation and rational discourse.

Sharon said...

First off I had to Google analingus and YUCK!!!

"Your belief doctrines are based on political choices. And I choose to flaunt my heretic pride. And I choose to ridicule your faith if it flies in the face of scientific evidence or modern cultural mores."
~Well said!

I'm going to stay away from the LGBT/Black/Mormon issue because you pretty much covered it. So I'll just address faith in really simplistic and personal terms.

I suppose it's difficult living in Colorado Springs to be confronted with evangelical nonsense at every turn. Still, I am a little surprised at your frustration with religious mythology. Somehow it implies (to me) that you have somewhat elevated expectations of us Homo sapiens and are perhaps less cynical than I am??? If that is the root of it, I think that's wonderful. I guess I just view (most of) us (including myself) as very unevolved intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. And that our reptilian brains are still very dependent upon our biology and that the need for faith is essentially hardwired into our brains. I don't disagree that it would be nice if religion and the collective could switch gears when faced with scientific evidence but I'm not sure that many of us are capable of such radical and independent thought. Perhaps the burden of being smarter than the rest of us is that you expect more of others than they are capable of (not that incompetence is an excuse for not trying).

I really like everything you've said here with the exception that perhaps you are more lenient on Christianity than I am. In reality I am all about that there is a larger and more complex reality than I am able to comprehend or that science and rationality are only able to provide fragmented glimpses of, and that whatever the hell is going on here is pretty spectacular; even to a bunch of monkeys. I also have a deep seated belief in the divinity of our souls, I just don't know what they are or to what extent they are.

Loring Wirbel said...

It's funny, Sharon, most people think of me as too jaded in thinking that we are really just glorified apes who make bad use of opposable thumbs, and I always point out to them that having low expectations of humans never leaves you feeling let down by real life - and hence makes you an optimist! But you see another level where I am really wishing and hoping that people can show more than that. I do not want to rob people of their fantasies and myths, and am deliberately not an atheist or agnostic. But it constantly frustrates me the silly things people whole-heartedly believe. Sects like Scientology really make me laugh. It seems obvious L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics as a cosmic joke, yet millions believe it. Does this mean that 50 years from now, some people will treat the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster as aserious religion?

Loring Wirbel said...

Hey, and all you folks who think of Colorado Springs as the end of the planet as far as gender tolerance is concerned, there was a demonstration of 200 at UCCS in favor of trangendered and LGBT a couple days ago-

- and a demonstration of 25 in favor of transgender rights at Aspen Valley High School today! Damn! -

Sharon said...

"Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster"
How funny!
Did you just make that up? I think there's a book in that title.....or at the very least a blog! :)

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh, no, there are books, T-shirts, a whole culture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster! It's like the Church of the Subgenius and Father Bob Dobbs - there's at least five Subgenius "bibles" and there used to be a monthly magazine called "The Stark Fist of Removal." I don't know if Flying Spaghetti Monster has a bible or magazine yet, but there's a web site at There's even a spinoff sect called Pastafarians.

Ruth said...

"And I absolutely believe in resonances and parallel universes and forces that cannot be explained through observation and rational discourse."


Ruth said...

Are you saying, Sharon, that people are unable yet to think for themselves?

I admit that it took me years, years of intense self scrutiny and scrutiny of church and doctrine to break free from what was embedded in my psyche. In fact it is only through friends like Diane Wakoski (poetry mentor) that I have turned a bit to even appreciate my rich heritage. But maybe most people are unwilling to face that kind of agonizing process and openness - so raw and painful - or they just don't have as deep a drive for Truth. I don't mean to glorify myself or what I did. I guess maybe I'm agreeing with you. But I also agree with Loring that we can expect more.

Sharon said...

No, not at all! I'm just saying that evolution is really slow and that we aren't as sophisticated as we like to think we are. That our "truths" are strictly perception/logic based and that our senses are not necessarily capable of perceiving all "realities". So while they can lead us in the right direction it would be arrogant to assume that what we "see" is the ultimate truth, which I believe to be unknowable. When Zoe comes to me with questions like "What if the Christians are right? What if I'm going to hell?" I remind her to keep her ego in check. That if there is some larger reality she needs to remember that her experiences at this point are strictly limited by her physicality and that she should leave her heart open to the fact that there may be more going on here than she is able to understand at this point. She has a pet rat (Lupin) who sits lives on her desk next to her computer. He will watch her for hours while she's on there and she pets and talks to him. Sometimes if he's sleepy she'll take him out and let him sit on her lap while she's on it. But he's a rat and no matter how much computer time he spends with her he can't possibly have a clue what the internet is.....he never will. It's just too complex. I'm probably wrong, and I'm very open to being wrong, but I can't help but believe that we are like Lupin when it comes to God and that our experience of whatever the ultimate reality is is limited. Not that we don't experience divinity in our lives.....I personally feel I have and that we do....just that drawing conclusions about it is a dangerous practice. You know....the more I know the more I don't know kind of thing. Personally the more I know the more I am convinced I'm an idiot!!! :)

Loring Wirbel said...

It's funny to see instant-gratification activists in their 20s who expect to see "instant change - just add water" along some kind of social-cultural front, and I tell them, "If you see something move a smidgen in 40 years, you're doing well." They look at me like I'm crazy. But as Sharon says, that's fast.

Ruth said...

Well when you're 18, you know everything. Then you spend the rest of your life learning what you don't know. So Zoe's lucky to have the discussion with Mom. I agree with people who believe newborn infants may be the closest to pure knowledge/understanding of all humans.

And back to the point (I think) of Loring's post - if people could accept that what they believe is for themselves, and there is no need or right to force others to agree, it seems that our evolution would go faster. There's just so much resistance to what others think, and then energy gets spent trying to stop them thinking that, when we could be moving forward in our own way, with our own spiritual insight if that's the case, contributing to a better world. It's rather strange that neither Christianity nor Islam sees that. Wish they were more like Buddhism - which ain't perfect either, but . . .

But what I hear in some Christian missionary circles, there is some good stuff going on, trying to find common ground with Muslims, sort of like Obama's wish to find common ground between Pro-lifers and Pro-choicers. We don't want unwanted pregnancy, bottom line. Now how can we agree on some basic concepts to teach young people?

Loring Wirbel said...

Don't kill people. Respect for all living beings. Play well with others. Button up your overcoat.

Don said...

I was in a Bible study many years ago and a radical Evangelical listed 43 commands in the New Testament like: women should be quiet in church, men should raise holy hands in prayer, women shouldn't teach men, women shouldn't wear gold or silver, men should love their wives, and on and on. he then asked, which ones of these do you do and which ones don't you do, and how did you decide which ones to obey? (Nicea?)

That changed me from a follow the lead lemming Xian to a questioner of all things and led me to pretty much what you all have been discussing.

Ruth is farther along than I am, but I think you all are correct in saying that the truth is in us and we need to let it express itself.

Your four rules of order are probably as good as any!

Go Ruth, Sharon and Loring! THis is one of the best conversations I have "heard" on any subject.

Loring Wirbel said...

Thanks, Don, at least I don't feel like I'm being arrogant and cruel by expressing this kind of thing.

Loring Wirbel said...

GASP! President Bush has just admitted he does not subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible! Could it be that the clout of the fairy-tale wing has diminished?