Millions of years ago a branch of life–those currently called humans–began having increasing degrees of consciousness. In this process, these human beings began journeys in search of answers to core questions: where do we came from, why do things happen as they do, what happens after death, as well as countless other questions — questions that planted the seeds for philosophy, theology, science, and History as we study them in 2015. For the less explainable, less observable questions, humans turned to thousands of different religions and their sets of Gods. Overtime, as questions and answers evolved, religions became more monotheistic. One constant of history is an on-going clash between science, knowledge, and religion.
Clifford Geertz (1977) defines religion as “(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existences and (4) clothing these conceptions with an aura of actuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”
As any examination of world history all the way to this second indicates, religion has indeed played a tremendous part in the hopes and fears of individuals and their societies. Religion has, as we all know, directly caused the death and suffering of countless individuals. Racism, sexism, classism, for example, have also caused far too many unnecessary deaths. Religion has also, of course, provided much need comfort and hope to countless individuals.
Religion in the twenty-first-century-United States tends to be strange. Although there are a growing number of Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists, to name a few varieties, most United Statesians identity as Christian and belong to one of its denominations. This blog will address a number of issues/concerns/observations about how Christianity is currently practiced in the United States.
People seldom acknowledge that who they are is an accident of geography and biology. If you were born in Chad, instead of the United States, you would have a different religion. If you were born in China, you would also have a different religion.
In all likelihood, membership in said imagined community would teach and require a belief that its religion was the one and only true, correct religion. People don’t recognize often enough that all (or almost all) religions say they are the only one and truly correct religion. This should give everyone pause. People also don’t recognize that missionaries are participating, at least in part, in an imperialistic adventure that usually so-called “benefits” the missionary more than the missioned-to.
Prayer is generally a big part of religion, but too often people, for example, pray for the poor and pray for a bill to be passed (or not be passed) without taking basic, tangible action.
We have (Republican) politicians who label themselves as born again Christians (frequently a perquisite for elected officials) at the same time they pass laws OKing rape; OKing discrimination against Women, Blacks, and LGBTs; and criminalizing homelessness and criminalizing feeding the homeless. There is far too little discussion of the role of racism in religion in the United States.
While I have previously written that separation of church and state is basically impossible, today’s conservative politicians are increasingly doing everything they can to deliberately go out of their way to promote and codify a certain interpretation of Christianity.
These conservative, evangelical Christian politicians oppose abortion while creating conditions (e.g., lack of sex education, neglect of womens’ health and poverty, and dismissive boys-will-be-boys attitudes) that necessitate abortion and that in no way promote life.
Seemingly all too often, people are trapped and tricked into abortion as a “one party issue.” Evidence shows less abortions occur when Democratic candidates are in office, but abortion continues to be a “one party issue” that distracts some and causes them to not see all the harm such candidates/officials can cause for far more people.
Religion, among other things, causes people to vote against their own best interests.
Religious-based private schools and religious-based books, such as the A Beck Books, are down right scary for how much they knowingly distort and hide from children. (More on this another day.)
Additionally, Christianity in the United States oddly centers on individualism. We live in a county and state (for those of us in Texas) that says killing is perfectly okay if you have any fear for your life, someone else’s life, or if your property is in danger. That it is perfectly okay to be “selfish” with one’s money to avoid helping the poor or the sick.
Our culture promotes capitalism so much that we deliberately make people suffer if they do not have enough money to survive (and we “justify” this by saying they should work harder and have better goals without ever looking at systemic issues), and in the process, we deliberately hold back progress.
Capitalism holds back progress. Capitalism is also immoral, as it is built on making profit and exploiting workers and buyers. Capitalism has evolved into a system where Governments pass laws prohibiting new, better, safer products because they will hurt the already rich and powerful. Teslas can’t be sold in Texas. Most countries don’t use toilet paper and instead have more advanced toilets, but…toilet paper is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Health care is a trillion dollar industry.
Religion, capitalism and associated mores/laws, rhetoric, and peer pressure (adult-to-adult peer pressure is neglected as a conversation topic far too often) result in many not feeling comfortable speaking out or making change in their life as they see necessary.
Religions frequently teach that the greatest sin (sometimes taught as the only unforgivable sin) is questioning and analyzing said religion. I say, we have a brain, we need to use it.
Theists sometimes accuse atheists of being immoral, of promoting immorality. They say, where is the motive to be good without religion. The cliché–if you’re only good because of religion, you’re not a very good person–is important here. Such conversations also falsely assume everyone agrees on what it means to be “good” and that morality is universal.