Is Christianity Confusing Religion and American Exceptionalism?

In this new Pew Forum poll, they take a look at the relationship between the Tea Party and Religious ideology. I encourage you to go and take a look at the findings. While I wasn’t surprised with the results in the least, there are too many factors to go into here. The poll as a whole got me thinking about the Tea Party’s seeming confusion of American Exceptionalism and Christianity. In reality, I’ve begun labeling (even if only in my own mind) the Tea Party as the “Christian Party.” I know that’s painting with a broad brush, and I know that not all Tea partiers are Christians, and I know that the official tenants of the Tea Party has nothing to do with Christianity…but let’s face reality and for once own up to it.

I came across another article while I was looking in to this subject which takes a different approach to this issue, but well worth the read.

Firstly, as for American Exceptionalism, I am among the first to see real specialty in the United States. Our growing diversity, the formation and rich history of the United States, and our continued growth as a society (traditional marriage just being one example).

However, I also am one of those who place our status as human beings over our status as Americans. I do not hold that the United States is perfect and always acts out of the best intentions. If we did always act out of highest regard for humanity, we would not still be a country today. I believe every country has to act out of self-interest while trying to behave itself at the same time.  I do not pledge allegiance to the flag (and haven’t for quite some time), not because I don’t love the United States, but because of a number of reasons having absolutely nothing to do with being an American.

In the summer of 2008, the rhetoric of the Tea Party became poisonous. We were all witness, if not in person then over the news, to the angry mob and groupthink mentality of hate spewing Americans who were fed up over what they view as high taxes (which means they haven’t seen this) and what they deem (from their religious views) as immoral. We also witnessed the genesis of the embarrassingly prominent Birthers movement, which was like putting a cherry on a dog turd.

Somehow, we’ve come to this place where America is viewed by many to be a Christian nation (thank goodness it’s not), and the way to show your Christianity in the political sphere is to be: pro-gun, pro-corporation, anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-social security, anti-government (in essence), laissez-faire, and treat the concepts of Communism and Socialism as issues of morality (along with carelessly interchanging them at will). Oh, and by the way, you also have to try to instill unfounded fear in the population and make sure to make ad hominem attacks on those who disagree. How is it that these ideas became entwined with what it means to be a Christian? I know there are plenty of Christians out there who are actually pretty socially progressive, and I appreciate that. However, they are either in the minority, don’t speak up, or are just completely overlooked.

Having everybody agree is not what has made America the nation it is today. Diversity of race, ideas, religious views, and politics is what makes America work. It’s messy, contentious, and often flat out ugly. I am the first to recognize that the majority of U.S. citizens fashion themselves Christian in some form or another. The real issue comes when we consider the rights of those not in the majority. Majority rule is a very, very scary thing.

Any politician is going to be dodgy when it comes to acknowledging that his or her religious views, or the religious views of his or her constituents play a part in the decision making. But once again, can we be honest? We all know that religion is the primary reason homosexuals are still unequal in regards to marriage. I don’t think there can be any argument that religion doesn’t play a role in the Tea Party or the Birthers, whether or not they own up to it. Religious views and outdated concepts of morality are consistently holding back the people in this country and getting in the way of the “freedom” of the individual that these same people are constantly espousing.

I find it troubling that the Christian Party is so active and powerful in this country. The thought that this majority is willing to step all over progress and individual rights while chanting “hate the sin, not the sinner” is sickening. Someday, perhaps, there could be an actual reasonable and constructive dialogue. Want to find a way to positively influence homosexuals and atheists and any other non-Christian that doesn’t live up to your outdated code??? Then take the plank out of your own eye first!

Advocatus Atheists’ Deconversion- In a Nutshell

Tristan, over at Advocatus Atheist put up a nice little article on his deconversion story. All of us, former relgious folk that is, have them. We all have our own reasons. In the beginning of his article is an example of a Christian’s unfounded assumptions, that are nearly offensive (although, I really don’t get offended too much). Note to Christians, please don’t make ridiculous assumptions like this when speaking to an atheist.

Independent Minds: Raising My Kids Without Religion

It really isn’t easy being an atheist. I need to make it clear that I am no militant when it comes to atheism, irreligion, etc… But I do know the difficulty in just normal day to day life when one of us is “not like the others.” I would never say I feel persecuted, of course I don’t. However, if you are a believer, you probably have no idea how often people make the assumption that I believe as they do…or make the comment “I’ll pray for you,” or in some other way bring up what God is doing and how grateful we should all be. I don’t get offended by this, but it does put me in the uncomfortable position of either letting the other person continue in their assumption that I believe the same as him or her, or gently correcting that assumption. I don’t seek out controversy, but I’m not ashamed to be a freethinker either. If you question whether or not what I say is true, as a quick example, just think of the controversy that hummed when President Obama mentioned non-believers in his inaugural address.

So, the question becomes how do we raise our kids. Well, I will tell you it’s not easy since the grandparents on both sides are believers. I’ve had the comment from my mother that I really should get H (my son) into a Sunday School. Even though you may not believe what is taught at the Church, it is good for the kids to get the moral ubringing. Anyone else see a problem with this? Okay, it’s my mother, so I say something briefly about kids not needing a church to act morally, but let it all go. Here’ s the real deal when it comes to kids and religion: I feel it my absolute responsibility to help raise my kids without imposing my views on them. I feel it my absolute responsibility that they don’t just accept ideas just because another person (or many people) subscribe to it. I fell it my absolute responsibility to try my best to save my kids from becoming victims of groupthink, or at least know how to recognize it when they see it.

I spent a good many years reading books on faith and apologetics as a means to convince myself that Christianity was true. I really tried. I think I even fooled myself for a good while. It felt great. I had friends in the church, I knew the roles we each had to play, and I debated with the best of them when it came to theological topics. I prayed, both with others any by myself. I played the role very well…I was even part of the worship team. However, in reality, I was fooling myself into trying to believe what it seemed everybody else did. I even made sure that I let it affect my politics. After all, if I was a Christian, then I needed to be a conservative Republican as well. I did my political thinking through the talking heads on talk radio. They were my source of political apologetics. This paragraph really goes to show the weakness in myself. I let myself go along with the crowd and participate (even promote) groupthink.

Now that I have broken myself free from this, it is becoming more and more important to me that I give my kids the best I can to help them know and trust in themselves. Fortunately, I have time to continue to think this through as my son is three and my daughter one. We obviously haven’t run in to the ideological, religious, or political questions yet. But we (my wife and I) are already setting the stage for this when my son asks questions. Taking a page from Dale McGowan, of Parenting Beyond Belief fame, we answer a number of my sons’ questions with “I don’t know H, what do you think?”, or “Does that make sense to you?” The idea is to let him process his question, and decide for himself whether the answer he’s come up with or been given by someone else makes sense. To his three year old mind, a number of things sound right. It’s not about him having all the “correct” answers at this point as much as it is him learning to think things through for himself and trust himself. We will of course start the same with my daughter as the needs arise.

I mentioned earlier that I consider it a necessity that I don’t impose my religious/political views on my kids. Most who read this are going to say that I’m automatically going to have influence over their beliefs. I agree. This can’t be helped. However, we will not shy away from religion or any other topic. We plan on exposing our kids to religion and religious services…when they are old enough to process these. It’s the same for political ideas. Already, my son has noticed that some kids have one mommy, or they have a daddy, or there are two mommies or two daddies, or a “traditional” family like ours of mommy and daddy. He’s asked about this. I don’t go into a litany of why it’s okay to have different types of families, instead, I just confirm his observation that there are a number of different types of families. I treat it as normal, no big deal (and I do believe it’s normal and no big deal).

These are some of my thoughts and plans at the moment for raising my kids without religion. If my son comes home as an eight year old wanting to attend church regularly because his friend(s) do, I probably won’t let him. If he comes home as a 14 or 15 year old wanting the same, chances are good I’d let him. I feel that we have to be on guard for our kids’ minds for them, until they reach a time when they are mature enough to process information, and hopefully trust in themselves enough to not get caught up in groupthink.

Obama No DOMA!

While this news isn’t new (a couple of days old by now), I am so heartened by President Obama’s stand on the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder “has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.” But besides my happiness at the decision, I think I am even more impressed with the reasoning behind it. Obama noted that the congressional debate during passage of DOMA “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” I am so in to that reasoning, I think I’ll post it again:

[Congressional debate during passage of DOMA] contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.

While this decision will of course raise the ire once again against Obama, to me this represents the beauty of our system of government. We cannot base a system of laws strictly on moral grounds. While it’s an important place to consider, we cannot place the religious/moral values of the many on a level that infringes the rights of a minority. Before you take me to task on that statement, that is not a blanket statement for every situation. When it comes to marriage between consenting adults then it absolutely rings true.

We make a big issue out of the “sanctity of marriage,” and “traditional family values.” The problem is that the people who spout these phrases either don’t consider the consequences to other people, or don’t care. Consider the rights you have as a married couple…spousal rights, property rights, hospital rights, end of life decisions, beneficiary rights, etc…These are established in law. And the fact is, when we deny marriage to other consenting adults, we deny them these protections as well.

If there were actual reasoning behind this country’s refusal to recognize gay marriage, I’d be open to listening. The problem is that the only reasoning anyone ever talks about is moral…which let’s face it, is code for religious beliefs.

So yes, I am very proud of our President for making a tough stand, and even more so for having reasoning behind it.

 

Note: Quotes retrieved from article Obama: DOMA Unconstitutional, DOJ Should Stop Defending in Court

 

 

 

Okay, So I’m Angry Over a Movie Review

Really, I try hard not to get worked up over what I perceive to be ignorant comments, viewpoints, etc…But I can’t help it with this. I didn’t even want to link to it, however, my rant will make no sense if I don’t show on what I’m ranting.

Disclaimer: the reviewer who is being reviewed here will henceforth be known as Tool. I will always capitalize Tool out of respect for this Tool.

I watched the movie “The Kids Are All Right” a couple of weeks ago. So enough time has passed now that I have likely forgotten much of the movie. However, I can tell you that I was truly engaged in this movie from the start. While it isn’t fast-paced, I found it gripping. The character development was deeper than we get on most movies today, seemingly. While the family is a brother, sister, and two lesbian mom’s, this story wasn’t about lesbian parenting.

This movie did a fantastic job at showing the family as a typical American family in the 21st century. This is a family, while not necessarily among the status quo, who is dealing with the same day-to-day issues. The moms are dealing with the same challenges most all married people deal with after having been married for many years. The kids are dealing with sex and identity just as the majority of teenagers deal with in real life. The characters are deep, complicated, and human. I highly encourage anyone of age to see this film.

The purpose of this post is not to expound the virtues of the movie. I don’t need to do that, the movie speaks for itself. Instead, I came across this movie review and it really, really upset me. I get that this review is coming from a Christian perspective, however, I think Christians themselves should be angry over these people. This post would be way too long for me to go into everything I would like, but here’s one example that really raised my eyebrows:

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a despicable, crude, obscene example of the moral perversion running rampant in today’s godless secular humanist society and in the homosexual “community.”

Really? The homosexual “community”??? I cannot tell you how irritated I am at the patronizing effect of those simple quotes around the word. I am not homosexual, I have been married to a woman for over 14 years now. However I am woefully aware of the terrible way our country treats those in the GLBT communities. While Tools like the person that wrote this review will argue that gay marriage trivializes marriage…they seem perfectly content in trivializing people when they write with this attitude. Do you want to have a Christian attitude and spread the love of Jesus, then don’t cheapen other people.

Next line: As such, it also shows the complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists, especially among those who promote homosexual and “transgender” behavior, including the approval and promotion of such evil perversion among the world’s children.

Already dealt with the quotes above, so I’ll let them go on this one. Instead, let’s look at this:

“Complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists…” Just curious, was Jesus a Republican? Oh, what I meant was “was Jesus a conservative?” I’ve known a good many pastors and teachers in my lifetime that would argue that Jesus quite revolutionary. I think what really irks me about this line is that the Tool just makes this blanket statement, as if he or she (let’s face it, it has to be a he) just has a personal axe to grind. The “breakdown of morality” is a pretty big claim, especially to pin it on one group of people. Just what is the “breakdown of morality” anyway? I get tired of the same old accusations leveled at me or others like me because I am fairly liberal (formerly conservative) and an atheist (formerly Christian). I won’t go into detail on liberals and atheist reasons to be angry when it has already been done so powerfully.

The main message of this movie, which includes very strong explicit sex scenes and abundant obscene language and doesn’t make much sense, is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems. This is probably what a licentious, lamebrain, loony leftist will see. A media-wise person, however, will discover an obnoxious, obscene movie with unappealing, confused characters. He or she also probably will note that this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.

Okay, what appear to be the standard ad hominem attacks notwithstanding, I feel like the Tool is getting somewhat close to seeing past his own hate colored glasses when he says that the main message is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems.” What I took from the movie is that it didn’t focus on the homosexual part at all. It focused on the family and their situation. The fact that the Tool can’t get over the homosexual part is really his problem. This movie was so much more than that.

Here’s a great line from Tool: “this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.” By this point, I am just laughing. It does help to write my way through sometimes. Look at the first three words in the above quote…”THIS MOVIE PROVES.” Anyone else see a problem with that? *crickets chirping*

Look, here’s the deal. No religion, Christianity or other, has a corner on the market of morality. As the Tool in our study shows, beliefs don’t equal morals. In fact, I personally think morality to be a load of hogwash anyway, but that’s a topic for another day. Just look at that quote above. If you were a non-believer, how would you feel about the Tool saying that he and the people like him have a higher moral sense through Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, how do you think the non-believer feels when reading this sort of message. I don’t care whether or not the Tool liked the movie, but I would rather he write an honest review treatise on what he sees as wrong in society.

Does God Exist?

Well, it seems as though there’s yet another religious tool floating around the web. Actually, I just came across it on Facebook for the first time…

Forget the fact that this little project has been proven fallacious. I’m more interested in the rather absurd argument it presents. While I never intend for this blog to be a breeding ground for religious debate and endless back and forth on *you show me yours and I’ll show you mine* proofs, I do however like to occasionally point out some issues with apologetics.

1. To equate cold and darkness with an idea or concept is a problem. Cold and darkness are observable through our senses. Whether they are real, or just the absence of their opposite, doesn’t really matter. They “feel” real. If we can experience something (or the absence of something) through our senses, it’s real (practically speaking).

2. Evil is a concept, and idea. To say that evil is the absence of God could be correct. To say that evil is the absence of good could be correct. Perhaps good is the absence of evil? Perhaps good is the absence of God? Which way is the right way? And why? It is no more correct for person “A” to assert that Evil is the absence of God, than it is for person “B” to assert that Good is the absence of God.

3. The implicit “appeal to authority” of Einstein as a defender of the faith is really disingenuous. If Einstein were a believer, I could understand. However, the poor fellow is still to this day misquoted and misjudged. Einstein was not a believer! One can debate all day long the actual views of Einstein on this. What is safe to say, is that he was no believer in a personal God.

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion. I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. -Einstein in a letter to Hans Muehsam (30 March 1954).

I assure you that I am not trying to be provocative, just realistic. If you are a believer, I don’t care in what, you need to be aware that what you see as a foolproof argument in favor of your belief tain’t necessarily so. I find that religious debate (political debate too for that matter) over the internet is a waste of time. It needs to be understood by both sides that the chances of anyone actually having his or her mind changed because of an argument is infinitely small. Arguments and proofs are not going to change minds. The believer will not look at arguments from my point of view, with an open mind.

In essence, the above video will have its desired effect on those who are already prone to believe. The nonsense of the argument will be just that to non-believers…nonsense.