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Fundamentalism And Tolerance


GeorgeW
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I'm not saying that everything within fundamentalism is bad. There are some good people there. And I believe in a few fundamentals, but my list would be more along the lines of love as found 1 Cor 13 than along the lines of the creeds. But when religion fosters selfishness and trains people to see others as either our or God's enemies, it does become toxic, harmful, a treacherous path - not just for us "personally", but for humanity and our world.

 

Shouldn't tolerance extend even to fundamentalists? I think that some people have a need for a clear, concrete theology with an authoritative source. I am not convinced that progressive religion serves the needs of every single person and should be asserted as a universal truth. (I am not suggesting that you are).

 

Why should I care if someone believes that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, etc. It seems to me that any theology that is not promoting harm or imposing itself on others should be tolerated.

 

Also, I do not think that religion causes people to be harmful. It may give divine justification, but it is not, IMO, the primary cause. I think that one's theology must be consistent with their worldview and we bring this worldview to our religion. That is why there is such consistency in religious, social and political views. And, that is why there is such inconsistency among those who are reading the same, exact texts.

 

George

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Shouldn't tolerance extend even to fundamentalists? I think that some people have a need for a clear, concrete theology with an authoritative source. I am not convinced that progressive religion serves the needs of every single person and should be asserted as a universal truth. (I am not suggesting that you are).

 

Why should I care if someone believes that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, etc. It seems to me that any theology that is not promoting harm or imposing itself on others should be tolerated.

 

Also, I do not think that religion causes people to be harmful. It may give divine justification, but it is not, IMO, the primary cause. I think that one's theology must be consistent with their worldview and we bring this worldview to our religion. That is why there is such consistency in religious, social and political views. And, that is why there is such inconsistency among those who are reading the same, exact texts.

 

That's a good question and interesting input, George. Should tolerance be extended to fundamentalists?

 

I would disagree with you that religion doesn't cause people to be harmful. Fairly recent episodes in religion such as the Waco Tragedy or the Jonestown Tragedy demonstrate what happens when religion is taken to an extreme. To me, there is little doubt that the extrememists who flew planes into the World Trade Center were motivated by their religious ideology. The religion of the Puritans led to the Salem Witch trials. The religion of the ancient Catholics led to the crusades and the deaths of millions of Muslims. I doubt the Ammorites or the Hittites or the Jebusites (etc) would have considered ancient Judaism as "not harmful" considering the Israelites were, supposedly, commanded by God to kill all of them, including women and children.

 

Religion may not be the primary cause. In fact, I suspect that harmful evil is based primarily upon human greed and power. But religion has no problem donning that mask easily and with its tendency to, as you have said, use divine justification, it is allowed to go unchallenged in its harmful agenda because it does proclaim God's sanction.

 

Taken by themselves, no, I wouldn't have a problem at all with people believing in the virgin birth, Jesus walking on water, etc. They are as free in this country to embrace those things as I am to reject them. But when they start telling *me* that I have to accept such tenets of their faith or burn in hell, their religion has, IMO, become toxic and harmful.

 

Therefore, speaking only for myself, no, I won't be tolerant of ANY religion that doesn't have tolerance and compassion at its own core. Someone said to me recently, "We should tend to our own backyard." And I agree. But the fundamentalists are notorious for coming into *our* backyard and telling us that their religion should be ours also, with usually some threat of hell put forth if we should reject their "good news." IMO, anybody is welcome to believe anything they like. But when their beliefs turn into harmful actions, as can happen in fundamentalism, I have no tolerance for fundamentalists. To much is at stake.

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I agree with you, George.

 

 

My wife of 60 years and I have quite different views of religion, but we still get along. She is a fundamental literalist and I am a liberal progressive. That does not mean that we aren’t both good people and good citizens and that we cannot get along. My primary interests are photography, history, and theology; hers are sewing and Bridge (and photography).

 

She reads a devotional and a couple of bible verses most every day and we go to church together once a week. We always try to go to church with at least one of our children. When you count the spouses, we have a rather large extended family, some of whom are pretty conservative and fundamentalist and some of whom are liberal and progressive. In spite of that, when we all get together, we have a wonderful time. We get together at least three times a year: Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

 

Eighteen members of the family spent three days at the beach last November to help us celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary and we had a wonderful time and we feel truly blessed. And, money is not a factor. In fact, most of the kids and grandkids are better off financially than we are.

 

I do not want to get too involved here, but we are an example of a family that does not agree on religion and politics, but still gets along with each other and loves one another. It can be done and it is not difficult; you just have to understand that the only person that you can empower and control is yourself. And, whether you want to be or not, you are an EXAMPLE to others from the minute you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night.

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That's a good question and interesting input, George. Should tolerance be extended to fundamentalists?

 

I would disagree with you that religion doesn't cause people to be harmful. Fairly recent episodes in religion such as the Waco Tragedy or the Jonestown Tragedy demonstrate what happens when religion is taken to an extreme. To me, there is little doubt that the extrememists who flew planes into the World Trade Center were motivated by their religious ideology. The religion of the Puritans led to the Salem Witch trials. The religion of the ancient Catholics led to the crusades and the deaths of millions of Muslims. I doubt the Ammorites or the Hittites or the Jebusites (etc) would have considered ancient Judaism as "not harmful" considering the Israelites were, supposedly, commanded by God to kill all of them, including women and children.

 

Religion may not be the primary cause. In fact, I suspect that harmful evil is based primarily upon human greed and power. But religion has no problem donning that mask easily and with its tendency to, as you have said, use divine justification, it is allowed to go unchallenged in its harmful agenda because it does proclaim God's sanction.

 

Taken by themselves, no, I wouldn't have a problem at all with people believing in the virgin birth, Jesus walking on water, etc. They are as free in this country to embrace those things as I am to reject them. But when they start telling *me* that I have to accept such tenets of their faith or burn in hell, their religion has, IMO, become toxic and harmful.

 

Therefore, speaking only for myself, no, I won't be tolerant of ANY religion that doesn't have tolerance and compassion at its own core. Someone said to me recently, "We should tend to our own backyard." And I agree. But the fundamentalists are notorious for coming into *our* backyard and telling us that their religion should be ours also, with usually some threat of hell put forth if we should reject their "good news." IMO, anybody is welcome to believe anything they like. But when their beliefs turn into harmful actions, as can happen in fundamentalism, I have no tolerance for fundamentalists. To much is at stake.

 

Norm, I share your intolerance for fundamentalism. I see it as doing far more harm than good because fundamentalism does not change with new information but stubbornly clings to a set of "beliefs" that are not only wrong but harmful.

 

When someone tells me something I know to be wrong, I tell them what I think. I think therefore I am, others can believe what they want but they won't stop me from thinking.

 

Paz

 

Harry

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"Fairly recent episodes in religion such as the Waco Tragedy or the Jonestown Tragedy demonstrate what happens when religion is taken to an extreme[/i]."

 

Or, this was a group of people with serious psychological dependencies controlled by clever, charismatic leaders? Does this kind of situation necessitate religion? I don't think so. Communism led a number of people to do some pretty horrible things.

 

To me, there is little doubt that the extrememists who flew planes into the World Trade Center were motivated by their religious ideology.

 

I disagree completely with this. This is too simplistic. When I read about the bombers hanging out in bars and drinking beer while preparing, I knew immediately that there was more to this than religion. No devout Muslim, particularly right before death, would consider drinking alcohol. The reasons, IMO, are much more complex and require more explanation than I have time for now or you would want to read.

 

 

The religion of the ancient Catholics led to the crusades and the deaths of millions of Muslims.

 

I disagree with this as well. There were other factors, social and economic at play as well.

 

Religion may not be the primary cause. In fact, I suspect that harmful evil is based primarily upon human greed and power.

 

Ahh. Now, we are getting closer to the truth. I would add xenophobia to the list of reasons. IMO, Religion is what gives these factors authoritative justification, but not primary motivation.

 

George

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Or, this was a group of people with serious psychological dependencies controlled by clever, charismatic leaders?

 

Certainly, George. That is, to me, what religion is. It is a man-made control system. Generally speaking, people are taught to follow a certain clever, charismatic leader without question. The human capacity, freedom, and, IMO, right for free-thought or reason is given up in order to follow unquestioning the leader of the religion.

 

Does this kind of situation necessitate religion?

 

I agree, it does not necessitate religion. But religion plays right into the psychological framework. This is why, IMO, religion needs self-critique. It needs to be constantly "progressive" so that it is maturing beyond the old us vs. them framework of its roots.

 

I disagree completely with this. This is too simplistic. When I read about the bombers hanging out in bars and drinking beer while preparing, I knew immediately that there was more to this than religion. No devout Muslim, particularly right before death, would consider drinking alcohol. The reasons, IMO, are much more complex and require more explanation than I have time for now or you would want to read.

 

I agree, the response that "religion is to blame" is too overly simplistic. But neither will it do, IMO, to say that religion is never harmful and that all religions are beneficial to humanity. The problem is, it is difficult to separate the psychology behind the religion from the religion itself.

 

The religion of the ancient Catholics led to the crusades and the deaths of millions of Muslims.

 

I disagree with this as well. There were other factors, social and economic at play as well.

 

Certainly. But it was the money and the power of the institutional religion that translated the other factors into bloodshed.

 

I would add xenophobia to the list of reasons.

 

Again, certainly. But, again, religion reinforces this by putting forth an us vs. them or chosen/unchosen or saved/damned or heaven/hell paradigm. Most religion (but certainly not all) is very dualistic in nature and if the adherants of the religion feel that God has enemies, it doesn't take long for the adherants to pick up their swords.

 

Please don't misunderstand me, George, I am not saying that ALL religion is evil and should be expunged from society. I am with Daniel Dennett in saying that what we really need is religious education. We need to know what all of the main religions teach as their core message and "way." Any religion that "indoctrinates" its young before they can reasonably decide for themselves what is the best or most beneficial way does deserve to die off. IMO, religions should not survive by Darwinian mechanism, but because they are compassionate, they are good for the whole world and make humanity better. If they don't, IMO, they don't deserve tolerance any more than a stranger showing up at my front door and saying that God told him to kill me and my family would be welcome in my house. Certainly there are psychological factors involved, but religions are usually the last to admit so. They would rather claim divine sanction and divine protection for their agenda.

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I think where we differ is that you see religion as more a causative factor than I do. I see it more as a justification for the true underlying factors like greed, power, xenophobia and the like.

 

It has been said that a good theory should explain all and only the data observed. Explaining good and bad behavior with religion does neither. There is no consistent correlation between good and bad behaviors and religion. There are secular humanists and there are secular brutes (see examples including the USSR and Red China). Likewise, there are both wonderful and awful behaviors found among highly religious people - citing the very same authoritative texts as justification!

 

A great example is slavery. Southern Christians cited the Bible to justify slavery where abolitionists used the Bible as arguments against it. In fact, some churches, like the Baptists, divided over the issue. I think it would be a mistake to claim that the Bible or religion motivated slavery while overlooking economic factors.

 

George

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Maybe this is a case of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." After all, there are evangelicals, such as the Sojurners Community, with whom I share almost all of my social convictions. And there are others whose convictions could be called fundamentalist (at least in the early 20th century sense of the term) who ardently support such organizations as Habitat for Humanity.

 

It is when people use their convictions, whatever they are, to act in ways that I find harmful that I get distressed. For example, this fellow Phelps (I think that is his name) from Kansas, who pickets funerals of slain soldiers, or people who support concepts like apartheid that I must put beyond the limits of my ability to be tolerant.

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Maybe this is a case of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." After all, there are evangelicals, such as the Sojurners Community, with whom I share almost all of my social convictions. And there are others whose convictions could be called fundamentalist (at least in the early 20th century sense of the term) who ardently support such organizations as Habitat for Humanity.

 

It is when people use their convictions, whatever they are, to act in ways that I find harmful that I get distressed. For example, this fellow Phelps (I think that is his name) from Kansas, who pickets funerals of slain soldiers, or people who support concepts like apartheid that I must put beyond the limits of my ability to be tolerant.

 

Yes, we should not, IMO, tolerate intolerance or hateful behavior. Some fundamentalists do engage in acts such as this. Homophobia and racism are not limited to fundamentalist Christians nor are all fundamentalist Christians homophobes and racists. What I suggest is that we tolerate an interpretation of the Bible that may be more literal than our own and oppose hateful behavior, whatever its source or association.

 

George

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I think where we differ is that you see religion as more a causative factor than I do. I see it more as a justification for the true underlying factors like greed, power, xenophobia and the like.

 

Perhaps so, George.

 

Being a senior Spong subscriber, I'm sure you're aware of Spong's theory as to how religion came to be, how different cultures banded together around worshipping different gods because they believed these deities could ensure their survival over hostile elements, hostile "neighbors," sicknesses, and even death. I believe Spong is spot-on in his conjectures about this. Ancient Israel perceived of God (YHWH) as a warrior deity who would help them conquer all their enemies and give them a land of their own if they would stay faithful to him. Survival.

 

Today, we live in a somewhat kindler, gentler world where the language of warring deities is seldom used except in the very fundamentalist flavors of world religions. We believe that technological firepower, not supernatural intervention, wins wars. IMO, it is only the "kindler, gentler" religions that deserve to survive. We don't need to go back to "Old Testament" religion.

 

So I'm not saying that all religion is bad. Neither am I saying, as fundamentalism teaches, that all people are evil. What I'm saying is that given our human capacity for both good and evil, we would be better off as the human race to expunge from ourselves varieties of religion that reflect, as our ancient ancestors believed, it is all about our tribe's survival. We don't need and it is dangerous to cater to forms of religion where the religious are primarily "soldiers in God's army" who are out, not to love the enemy as Jesus taught, but to conquer, enslave, or even destroy them.

 

IMO, religion can take two basic forms. It can either manifest itself as a worldview that seeks to unite all humanity in common values (such as human worth, compassion, justice, care for our world, etc.) or it can manifest itself as a paradigm that seeks to divide people and the world into the saved/damned, chosen/unchosen, Christian/non-Christian, spiritual/unspiritual (pick your own dichotomous labels). When religion turns divisive, which a one of the prime characteristics of fundamentalism, it is no longer good. It becomes, as this thread calls it, a treacherous path.

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I'm sure you're aware of Spong's theory as to how religion came to be, how different cultures banded together around worshipping different gods because they believed these deities could ensure their survival over hostile elements, hostile "neighbors," sicknesses, and even death. I believe Spong is spot-on in his conjectures about this.

 

What I'm saying is that given our human capacity for both good and evil, we would be better off as the human race to expunge from ourselves varieties of religion that reflect, as our ancient ancestors believed, it is all about our tribe's survival.

 

While I agree with Spong on a number of issues, this is not one. I think this is a flawed explanation for the existence of religion. His analysis is, IMO, too Abramhamic centric. Religion has existed in numerous cultures and many different forms.

 

I certainly do not favor the forms of religion you mention above, but I also don't think that expunging them alone would do a lot of good. I think religion is a symptom, not a cause. It is just one manifestation of one's (or a society's) worldview.

 

George

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While I agree with Spong on a number of issues, this is not one. I think this is a flawed explanation for the existence of religion. His analysis is, IMO, too Abramhamic centric. Religion has existed in numerous cultures and many different forms.

 

Spong's conjecture initially has little to do with the Abrahamic faiths, George. The earliest form of religion seems to be animism. It probably took us hundreds of thousands of years before animism changed into paganism and then into the anthropomorphic forms of the Abrahamic faiths.

 

I certainly do not favor the forms of religion you mention above, but I also don't think that expunging them alone would do a lot of good.

 

I agree. We currently don't have a universal philosophy or agreed upon set of values that could do what institutional religion does. ;)

 

I think religion is a symptom, not a cause.

 

So how would *you* address the cause? What would you offer as a countermeasure to the greed, xenophobia, and self-centeredness that seems to plague humanity? Is more religion the answer?

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So how would *you* address the cause? What would you offer as a countermeasure to the greed, xenophobia, and self-centeredness that seems to plague humanity? Is more religion the answer?

 

Oh my goodness, I was afraid you would ask this question. Wow! how do we change worldviews and overcome human prejudices, desires and need for personal gratification? I really don't have a good answer and I am not sure there is 'an' answer.

 

I suppose religion (i.e. progressive) could be part of the solution. Influential leaders like MLK, Gandhi, Mandela help. Education could help. Reducing disparity in wealth could help.

 

I would be very interested in what you and others think.

 

George

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I call it Christy-ness.

 

Javelin, a book that helped cure me of fundamentalitis was James Carroll's Constantine's Sword. This is a book that I threw in the garbage can several times before finishing. I had just discovered that my grandfather was Jewish (long story I shall share some day), so it was particularly troubling to me.

 

NORM

 

Hey Norm,

 

I watched the documentary of Constantine's Sword. Captivating. I never realized how oppressed the Jews were before watching it. And how fundamental the premise is. It is the foundation of so many things today.

 

I am a late bloomer. They say the young are the restless. I'd like to correct that. I'm approaching 63 and have never been more restless.This time about the important things in life.

 

Constantine actually can claim sole responsibility for condemning the Jews for the death of Christ when it was actually the Roman Catholics.

 

Talwk amongst yerselves. I'm verclempft.

 

Kath

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Shouldn't tolerance extend even to fundamentalists? I think that some people have a need for a clear, concrete theology with an authoritative source. I am not convinced that progressive religion serves the needs of every single person and should be asserted as a universal truth. (I am not suggesting that you are).

 

Why should I care if someone believes that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, etc. It seems to me that any theology that is not promoting harm or imposing itself on others should be tolerated.

 

 

I think it depends on what you mean by the word tolerance. If by tolerance you mean that religious fundamentalists should be treated humanely and have the same equal rights as everyone else, I completely agree. Even though I find the Phelps' homophobic message to be highly offensive, I still support the Phelps' right to free speech because I think the speech that's most important to protect is the speech we disagree with. At the same time, I don't think this means we should back down and completely ignore harmful beliefs. If someone is spreading harmful beliefs about gays or promoting sexism, it's important to speak out against these hateful beliefs before they spread further. When Dr. Tiller was murdered, the pro-life movement denied they seriously wanted Dr. Tiller to be killed when they called him "Tiller the baby-killer" and spread hateful propaganda about him, but because they let such hateful beliefs go unchecked, it enabled the extremists who take such language literally to use it as justification for their radical immoral actions. At the same time, I think it's important to not fall into the trap of stereotyping and automatically assuming anyone who's a fundamentalist must be a hateful bigot. There are Christians out there who hold fundamentalists theological beliefs but are allies in progressive social values like Philip Yancey and Tony Campolo who we should welcome as allies in the battle for social justice. But if we don't want progressive Christians to be known as "enablers" of extremism as the New Atheist accuse PCs of being, I don't think tolerance means we should let harmful beliefs go unchallenged and the one thing we can't tolerate is intolerance no matter what your religious beliefs are.
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I think it depends on what you mean by the word tolerance. If by tolerance you mean that religious fundamentalists should be treated humanely and have the same equal rights as everyone else, I completely agree. Even though I find the Phelps' homophobic message to be highly offensive, I still support the Phelps' right to free speech because I think the speech that's most important to protect is the speech we disagree with.

 

But if we don't want progressive Christians to be known as "enablers" of extremism as the New Atheist accuse PCs of being, I don't think tolerance means we should let harmful beliefs go unchallenged and the one thing we can't tolerate is intolerance no matter what your religious beliefs are.

 

Absolutely, I am not suggesting tolerating hateful behavior such as that of the Phelps group. However, what I am saying is that not all fundamentalists are homophobes and all homophobes are not Christians. When a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, an atheist or whomever behaves in a hateful way, such as that, it should be condemned.

 

I don't think that a 'literal' (fundamental) belief in the Bible causes one to be homophobic. Homophobia is not limited to Christian societies, nor are all Christians homophobic. If one claims the Bible is the cause, then they must explain why homophobia is found in non-Christian societies, including atheist ones like the USSR and Red China. In addition, they must explain why many Christians, who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, are not homophobic. There is no correlation between Bible belief and homophobia.

 

There are many requirements and prohibitions in the Bible that 'fundamentalists' are able to avoid (like wearing linen and wool), so following OT commandments or rules is not the underlying reason that some fundamentalists are homophobic. IMO, the ones that are, bring their homophobia to the Bible and use these passages as authoritative justification for an underlying attitude.

 

As to the Phelps case, I was somewhat ambivalent about the Supreme Court decision and limits on 'free speech.' Professor Fish had an Op-ed in the NYTimes a couple of days ago that led me to tip on the side of banning this kind of 'speech.' If you are interested, here is the link:

 

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/sticks-and-stones/?scp=3&sq=fish%20phelps&st=cse

 

George

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But if religion never influences people to commit immoral actions, then we can't say religion influences people to do moral actions either. And if religion can't influence people to do good things, what's the point of being religious? In the case of communism, it wasn't atheism that inspired them to commit their wicked actions but their irrational political beliefs and communism was basically a cult of personality.

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But if religion never influences people to commit immoral actions, then we can't say religion influences people to do moral actions either. And if religion can't influence people to do good things, what's the point of being religious? In the case of communism, it wasn't atheism that inspired them to commit their wicked actions but their irrational political beliefs and communism was basically a cult of personality.

 

I am not claiming that religion causes people to commit moral actions. I don't think that is the case. There are many absolutely moral people who are indifferent or opposed to religion. There are both moral and immoral Christians and there both are moral and immoral seculars.

 

I would not go so far as to say that religion has NO influence on people. It can appeal to our better and worst angels and it does give, as I have said, an authoritative rationale for our values, good and bad. I also think the social aspect of religion is an influence. If everyone around us is behaving in a certain way, that will influence our behavior. But, the form of one's religion will conform with their worldview: See the number of "recovering Fundamentalists" in PC. What drove them away? IMO, in most cases, it did not conform to their values.

 

It is, no coincidence that people who are liberal in religious views are generally liberal in social and political views as well. And, the converse is true of conservatives. There is almost nothing in the Bible about abortion, but I can predict with great confidence one's views on this issue based on their religious views. The same is true of environmentalism and any number of other secular issues. We bring our values to our religion and to our politics.

 

My point about communism is that it is an example where hateful behavior was completely unrelated to the Bible, or religion in general.

 

What is the point of being religious? That is a big question, but it is not to foster immorality or morality. None of the functional explanations explains religion as it is found in various forms and various societies.

 

George

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P.S.

 

I am not suggesting at all that religious groups, like any other group, should abstain from moral teachings and promoting social justice. The more who advocate for the downtrodden and oppressed, the better the chance that the world can be changed for the better (i.e. the better according to my worldview). And, adding divine sanction to social justice is not counterproductive.

 

George

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I am not claiming that religion causes people to commit moral actions. I don't think that is the case. There are many absolutely moral people who are indifferent or opposed to religion. There are both moral and immoral Christians and there both are moral and immoral seculars.

 

I would not go so far as to say that religion has NO influence on people. It can appeal to our better and worst angels and it does give, as I have said, an authoritative rationale for our values, good and bad. I also think the social aspect of religion is an influence. If everyone around us is behaving in a certain way, that will influence our behavior. But, the form of one's religion will conform with their worldview: See the number of "recovering Fundamentalists" in PC. What drove them away? IMO, in most cases, it did not conform to their values.

 

 

I can only speak from my own experience as a former fundamentalist Christian. When I was a fundamentalist, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was a sin and that God would send you to hell for being gay. When I realized I was gay, my religious beliefs caused me a great deal of emotional turmoil as I struggled to reconcile my sexuality with my faith. Because I believed homosexuality was a sin, my beliefs led me to seek out therapy to try and change my sexuality. I tried my hardest to "pray the gay away" but nothing I did ever worked and I never was able to change it. Eventually I came to understand that any god who would torture people for all eternity just because of who they loved was not a god worth worshiping and so I deconverted from fundamentalism. After I unshackled myself from the chains of dogmatism, it helped me to accept myself for who I am and helped stop my self-loathing. I can't speak for others but in my case, my beliefs about God did influence my actions and how I reacted to my sexuality and it was through evolving my understanding of religion and spirituality that I was able to accept myself. If I continued to remain a fundamentalist, I might still be trying to change my sexuality or trying to live a lonely life of chastity.
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I can only speak from my own experience as a former fundamentalist Christian. When I was a fundamentalist, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was a sin and that God would send you to hell for being gay. When I realized I was gay, my religious beliefs caused me a great deal of emotional turmoil as I struggled to reconcile my sexuality with my faith. Because I believed homosexuality was a sin, my beliefs led me to seek out therapy to try and change my sexuality. I tried my hardest to "pray the gay away" but nothing I did ever worked and I never was able to change it. Eventually I came to understand that any god who would torture people for all eternity just because of who they loved was not a god worth worshiping and so I deconverted from fundamentalism. After I unshackled myself from the chains of dogmatism, it helped me to accept myself for who I am and helped stop my self-loathing. I can't speak for others but in my case, my beliefs about God did influence my actions and how I reacted to my sexuality and it was through evolving my understanding of religion and spirituality that I was able to accept myself. If I continued to remain a fundamentalist, I might still be trying to change my sexuality or trying to live a lonely life of chastity.

 

I would never deny that there are homophobic attitudes in some religious forms. I have only been trying to make the point that this is not, IMO, motivated by religion. These people bring their attitudes to their religion and give it authoritative sanction. This is to be condemned.

 

I am pleased that you were able to get away from this and find something something that makes you feel positive about yourself.

 

George

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I can only speak from my own experience as a former fundamentalist Christian. When I was a fundamentalist, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was a sin and that God would send you to hell for being gay. When I realized I was gay, my religious beliefs caused me a great deal of emotional turmoil as I struggled to reconcile my sexuality with my faith. Because I believed homosexuality was a sin, my beliefs led me to seek out therapy to try and change my sexuality. I tried my hardest to "pray the gay away" but nothing I did ever worked and I never was able to change it. Eventually I came to understand that any god who would torture people for all eternity just because of who they loved was not a god worth worshiping and so I deconverted from fundamentalism. After I unshackled myself from the chains of dogmatism, it helped me to accept myself for who I am and helped stop my self-loathing. I can't speak for others but in my case, my beliefs about God did influence my actions and how I reacted to my sexuality and it was through evolving my understanding of religion and spirituality that I was able to accept myself. If I continued to remain a fundamentalist, I might still be trying to change my sexuality or trying to live a lonely life of chastity.

 

Well, Neon, I can certainly relate to your experience. I too was in a fundamentalist group that was intolerant of homosexuals. We based this understanding on selected biblical passages, all of which I'm sure you've heard plenty of times. To be fair, none of us were aware of things like ambiguous sexuality or genetic studies conducted by researchers.

 

There was a young man in our church who struggled with his sexuality, and trying his best to "fit in" with our church community, suppressed his identity. There were many in our church leadership who were extremely judgmental in their views on this issue. They routinely preached and taught that those "giving in" to the "lusts of the flesh" could never truly be Christians.

 

One night he failed to show up for a church function (he never missed), and it was a very cold, snowy evening and I volunteered to go to his apartment to see if he was OK. He walked to the church, which was several blocks away. I found the front door open and all the lights in the upstairs on, but he was nowhere to be found. There was a light on in the basement, so I went down. I found him leaning up against one of the washing machines with a plastic bag wrapped around his head, a rubber band around his neck. He was dead. I sat down next to him and cried for what seemed like an eternity. He was in a small group Bible study with me, and routinely expressed his overwhelming sense of guilt at his inability to repress his sexual desires. The enormity of my guilt in the complicity of this young man's death hit me like a ton of bricks.

 

That moment was the beginning of the end of my extreme religious views.

 

Now, when I look back at those moments, I think how it would be were the situation reversed. How would I feel if heterosexuality was considered an abomination to G-d? How can you repress who you fundamentally are? For those who try to portray homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, I ask them: when exactly did you DECIDE to become attracted to the opposite sex?

 

I only have one piece of advice to you, my friend: don't let the XXXXXXXX drag you down! You are who G-d made you. Embrace it and celebrate it.

 

NORM

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Well, Neon, I can certainly relate to your experience. I too was in a fundamentalist group that was intolerant of homosexuals. We based this understanding on selected biblical passages, all of which I'm sure you've heard plenty of times. To be fair, none of us were aware of things like ambiguous sexuality or genetic studies conducted by researchers.

 

There was a young man in our church who struggled with his sexuality, and trying his best to "fit in" with our church community, suppressed his identity. There were many in our church leadership who were extremely judgmental in their views on this issue. They routinely preached and taught that those "giving in" to the "lusts of the flesh" could never truly be Christians.

 

One night he failed to show up for a church function (he never missed), and it was a very cold, snowy evening and I volunteered to go to his apartment to see if he was OK. He walked to the church, which was several blocks away. I found the front door open and all the lights in the upstairs on, but he was nowhere to be found. There was a light on in the basement, so I went down. I found him leaning up against one of the washing machines with a plastic bag wrapped around his head, a rubber band around his neck. He was dead. I sat down next to him and cried for what seemed like an eternity. He was in a small group Bible study with me, and routinely expressed his overwhelming sense of guilt at his inability to repress his sexual desires. The enormity of my guilt in the complicity of this young man's death hit me like a ton of bricks.

 

That moment was the beginning of the end of my extreme religious views.

 

Now, when I look back at those moments, I think how it would be were the situation reversed. How would I feel if heterosexuality was considered an abomination to G-d? How can you repress who you fundamentally are? For those who try to portray homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, I ask them: when exactly did you DECIDE to become attracted to the opposite sex?

 

I only have one piece of advice to you, my friend: don't let the xxxxxxxx drag you down! You are who G-d made you. Embrace it and celebrate it.

 

NORM

 

Dear Norm,

 

How awful that you had to learn through that experience. An aside thought, I wonder if another member of your church had found him, if he/she would have been moved to progressiveness. Maybe yes, maybe no. But you did. It changed you.

 

If there were no bible, there would be no 'guidelines' for 'Christians' to blindly follow. Being taught that the bible is the word of God, I think is the problem. This one book is responsible for so much pain, suffering, death, ostracism, humiliation, wars, and on and on, that I still maintain the world would be a better place had it not been embraced, idolized and proliferated in historic and modern society.

 

Kath

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Dear Norm,

I wonder if another member of your church had found him, if he/she would have been moved to progressiveness.

 

I have to say that it was quite an eye-opener for many people at that church. I'd say that probably half of the people directly involved with the young man abandoned at least a fundamentalist view of the Bible, if not rejected Christianity altogether. I no longer keep in touch with anyone from that place, so I can't say how many more have evolved.

 

 

 

If there were no bible, there would be no 'guidelines' for 'Christians' to blindly follow. Being taught that the bible is the word of God, I think is the problem. This one book is responsible for so much pain, suffering, death, ostracism, humiliation, wars, and on and on, that I still maintain the world would be a better place had it not been embraced, idolized and proliferated in historic and modern society.

 

Yes, sometimes I wonder about this. Actually, I wonder about it quite a bit. I know that there are lots of churches just like the one I was a part of. They really do worship the Bible instead of G-d. If you suggest that even a portion of the "Holy" Bible might possibly be in error, you will be condemned. It's all rather circular and short of an experience like I had, I don't know what will get through to the Bible Idolaters.

 

Yet, at the same time, there are a lot of great things in the Bible. The wisdom of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is worth having the book around. I think the proper place is for the Bible to hold the same place as other great works of human philosophy.

 

NORM

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I have to say that it was quite an eye-opener for many people at that church. I'd say that probably half of the people directly involved with the young man abandoned at least a fundamentalist view of the Bible, if not rejected Christianity altogether. I no longer keep in touch with anyone from that place, so I can't say how many more have evolved.

 

I'm glad to hear that. What a shame it takes something as horrific as your experience to wake people up.

 

 

Yet, at the same time, there are a lot of great things in the Bible. The wisdom of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is worth having the book around. I think the proper place is for the Bible to hold the same place as other great works of human philosophy.

 

NORM

 

Yes, this is a point others have been making, about which I personally disagree. The difference in our perspectives might have something to do with one's personal experience with religion and the bible. I was allowed, as a child, to experience other religions with my friends, so I wasn't heavily indoctrinated into any one particular church.

 

I think there are many books which teach words of wisdom very similar to that of your example, although they do not, at the same time, instill fear and prejudice in the reader and believer as the bible does. I would surmise that whatever circumstances (and I know the scholars have written on this) made the bible into the #1 best selling book of all time and the most influential, it certainly was not God's doing.

 

Kath

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