can a good person be a bad Christian?

I was reading an article the other day, something about raising Christian children, and I strayed into the comments section. Always a dangerous place. One theme I noticed, and it rears it’s head on Christian articles all the time, is that Christians have this habit of saying, “Well, that person obviously does not believe in God like I do. Their faith is wrong.” Wait… what? 

How in the world do you know that you are being Christian the “right way” and they are being Christian “wrong”? Even when I was certain of my belief in God, I was still not convinced that I was absolutely right. I never viewed my beliefs as infallible, or the ideas I held to be true as universal. Maybe that’s why questioning it all has come about. Maybe my doubt was deeply seeded and inevitable.

But I am still curious. How can someone look at their religious beliefs, their faith, for which there is no empirical evidence, and say, “Oh, I am right. And that person is obviously wrong.” Why? Admittedly, I much prefer my Christian friends who love gay people, women’s rights to reproductive health care, and have a strong sense of social justice; as opposed to Christians who hate gays, oppress women, and talk incessantly about “teaching a man to fish” while children starve and die. But it is those very people that I love who are saying that other Christians are serving the wrong god or being too literal or giving Christianity a bad name or whatever. I think this misses an important point.

Faith is supposed to change you, right? God or Jesus is supposed to change your heart and make you a better person. Unfortunately, in a world where we can personalize everything from a kitchen mixer to our bath towels, remember- people personalize their faith too. I did. I made up my mind about how I felt about the world and then twisted my faith to make it fit my view. Therefore, if I was more conservative, more male, and WAY less tolerant of everyone who was not those things, I could probably tailor my faith to that world view. In short- maybe that person is not doing Christianity wrong. Maybe it isn’t that their beliefs are kind of asshole-ish. Maybe they are just assholes. And I am not convinced that belief in God has ever made someone who is an asshole suddenly stop being an asshole.

*side note- I am not dissing all conservative males, I was just referring to a particularly loud and irritating segment of people who fall into that category.

religion vs. faith

Whenever I talk about my belief questions with a select few people, I am reminded to separate those two things: religion and faith. Faith is personal, it is the quiet interior of your belief practice. While religion is the man-made structure or organization that creates the rules, gathers the money, and declares the wars. I get the difference. I understand why people want to separate the two. As a believer I was very outspoken about how religion was not my cup of tea. I preferred faith and the personal, self-defined system of beliefs that I had decided on. Ah but there’s the rub.

I may have had my own faith, my own system, and my own personalized structure of beliefs while I was attending church. But I was still in the church. I worked for the church! I was a part of the organization. I was clearly in the religion. As much as I did not want to call myself a Christian, (because of the way people would perceive me) I was still a Christian! What about people who believe but don’t go to church? Well, do they believe in God, the God of Abraham? Do they identify as Christians? Even a weird, vague, watered-down version? Then they are in the religion.

I think aversion to being part of the system is partly due to our American individuality coming out. We all want to be individuals, originals, unlike anything else, special. And we are in many ways. And in many ways we aren’t. And when someone decides that they believe even part of a system of beliefs, that has been decided on by a group, and called Christianity, then they are part of the religion.

Some Christians seem to think that if they are odd or different or outcast enough, then they are no longer part of the system. They have the impression that by not “being religious” they are not participating in the system. I thought the same thing. And I was wrong. Being a believer, even if you are a different kind of believer, automatically puts you into that club. Whether you like it or not. People might chafe at being in the “in crowd”, but that doesn’t make it less true. And rest assured, if you are in, someone else is out.

I am not sure why this bothered my suddenly. Maybe the fact that I saw myself buying into this disordered thought process. Maybe it’s the prevalence of it. But when I am trying to be bluntly honest with myself, learn more about the world and how it works, and put names to things that I have never bothered with before- I really want to see other people taking a more rigorous look at what they are saying. I don’t want others to buy into comforting half-truths, or self-delusion- I want them to be thinking critically about who they are and what they believe. And if it is still Christianity- okay. But just be honest about it. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you are a rebel when you are part of a hugely powerful organization.

binge listening

I am feeling SUPER vulnerable and lonely and just… just crap. Depression sucks. No lie. And being constantly around people who really don’t know me nor do they understand the illness nor do I trust them to talk about it… it makes every day a panic attack waiting to happen. I don’t think I have breathed normally in two weeks. On top of that- I don’t believe in God… yeah, you can’t just tell people that. They will try to Jesus you. SO I am binge listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast. I LOVE IT! Love the one about you are not alone, you are not crazy. Love the placebo effect. Love Dogma. Love hope after faith. I have many books to buy that i will hopefully read after grad school.

It is smart, it is real, it is courteous, and it is one hell of a great comfort when you feel totally alone in the real and preverbal desert. Thanks Seth.

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/

God of the Gaps

Let me preface this post. I do not really know what I believe right now. I am questioning everything. I can’t fully say that I am Christian, but I can’t say I am not. I can’t say I am sure there is a god, but I can’t say I am not. This is just me exploring ideas and the belief structure that I was taught, hoping to make sense of it all.

Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is brilliant, he is funny, he is brilliant, he is the kids of guy I want to hang out and watch old Star Trek episodes with. And maybe Firefly too. Hell, we could just have a sci-fi weekend and nerd it up big time! This is an old video, but it was sent to me after a discussion with my sister about my current view of God.

I know it must be irritating to some people to read this and watch me rail against certain aspects of Christianity and then say, “oh I am just questioning things.” But unfortunately that is the truth. The more I find out, the more I see these holes in religion and in my belief structure. I think I am close to saying that I feel like religion is not a good thing, and not for me. Close, not quite, but close. That is a big statement and I can’t fully commit to it. I have commitment issues. Commitment-phobe.

Religion is a man-made structure though, and my bigger question is about God. I think you can let go of religion and still believe in a god and have faith. But my current view of God is so confused.

Is he a big massive authority figure that dabbles in lives as he wishes and yet avoids major social justice needs for change (the micro-manager)? Is he more of a omnipresent, hands-off, distant figure that spun the universe into motion and now just watches the action (deism?)?

I don’t know. Frankly, neither of those are particularly appealing. But what Tyson says in this video struck me. It is an additional question. As I seek information and answers, as I examine my world and my beliefs, is my God going to get smaller and small to just cover the gaps in knowledge? Is that all God is for? To cover the gaps of those things we cannot explain? Have I spent my life believing in a God of the Gaps?

Miracles?

Miracles. Hmmmm. This has been a concept I have had problems with since I was a child. The general definition is some sort of event that serves as helpful or beneficial for a person, and is viewed as either inexplicable or as an intervention of the divine.

Intervention of the divine. Right. Cause God wants me to escape a fender-bender, but has no miracles for the billions of people in the world who are starving, dying, or oppressed by forces outside of their control. Sure. That makes complete sense.

I know that sounds snarky, but think about it. I profess to believe in a loving and just God. I profess a belief in the power of prayer to intercede on the behalf of someone, that prayer can capture the attention of God (who is always watching) and move him to act in a miraculous way on my behalf.

And yet… yet… women are burned alive by their potential husbands who want to pay a lesser dowry. Men have been protected by law so that when they rape a woman, as long as they marry her later, they face no legal action. Which is great because once she is ruined it is way easier to get her as a wife. Children, innocent, blameless children, sit dying in streets all over the world for a variety of reasons- illness, starvation, exposure. And this… this God does not miraculously fix.

So all of the prayers that I have sent up for all of these people, did they not work? Where was God? Oh I know that pat answers. Humanity introduced evil into the world and now it is a burden we must bear. We must be responsible for lifting people out of oppression. We must help and aid those people by bringing them the message of Christ- and presumably clean drinking water. 

But I don’t like those answers. I think those answers are a cop out. I think it is horribly horribly duplicitous to say, “Well, evil exists in the world and we can’t fix that, but I am sure God has a plan.” And then to claim that God blessed you with a promotion, or a new car, or maybe you were healed of a disease, even though you have insurance and doctors and a fighting chance just because of your geographic location. 

Yeah. The idea of miracles bothers me. Because eventually, no matter which line of thinking you follow, you either end up with a God who micro-manages the lives of a select, special, privileged few; or you have a God who is so completely hands-off that he serves no purpose other than as an architect of some sort. Maybe I am missing something, but neither of those gods suits me, or my view of justice and love.

science vs. faith from “Storm” by Tim Minchin

This quote (and the whole poem if I’m honest) has been occupying my mind a lot lately. I have been listening to it almost every day. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how I feel about this simple breakdown of the difference between those two things, science and faith.

I agree with the semantics of what he says here. I think they are both accurate and well crafted descriptions of how faith and science approach the world. But when it is applied to me personally I balk at this definition of faith.

I grew up hearing (and saying) that “faith is the belief in things that cannot be proved.” Now that sounds nice! It sounds lovely, like having a nap on a Saturday morning followed by a leisurely cup of coffee while I check facebook. It sounds like something that one could consider a positive trait or attribute.

The idea that I might have been closing my eyes to the evidence that the world is presenting me is discouraging. It makes me feel bad. Like, sleeping in on a Wednesday and missing a meeting I was supposed to lead- on purpose. It’s as though practicing the faith I had been brought up in was a character flaw, or a failing. Ouch Tim.

But even with all that… just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And if I agree that the statement is accurate, then I am only disapproving of it because it would apply to me… and that’s just lying to myself, that’s just fake. And hypocrisy. So… do I agree with Tim Minchin? Am I ready to admit that I was, for a time, blind; and more than that, choosing blindness?