I have a penchant for quoting scripture, and it has been called into question by Christians, especially when I use scripture in what appears to be an attempt to convince people to agree with me.
Before I continue, please know this: I am not trying to change anyone’s mind. I wish to entertain, I wish to annoy, I wish to make you snort when you laugh so the person in the next room asks you what’s so funny. I write for the reaction (the emotional response of the reader, not the comments… but those are nice sometimes). Only you can change your mind, and frankly most people change too slowly for me to appreciate it. I’ve usually gone on to bitch about new, more interesting things.
I quote scripture quite often, and for a very important reason: if one wishes to discuss a particular discipline, one must use the language of that discipline if one ever hopes to be taken seriously. I don’t focus on celebrity opinion. I don’t write about Richard Dawkins or what the Pope is up to… unless he’s being tackled on Christmas. I’m not sure if I would even deign post about such an incident were Dawkins to be the victim (why give him the press?).
By having never read anything by Dawkins, Hitchens or any other prominent atheist they decide to throw up on the stage of stupidity from which everyone is so studiously taking notes and glorifying as the epitome of intellectual discourse, I hope to have an untainted canvas on which to work with as I paint my picture of why Christianity is full of shit.
I pick Christianity because it is the faith of my upbringing. I also have a particular beef with the exclusionary theology of monotheism in general, and Christianity is the safest of the three targets. Judaism has had its turn (besides, it’s really my wife’s thing), and Islam is just a parody of religion (and I don’t want my apartment to be broken into). Christianity also has the most influence in the nation in which I live.
In order to criticize something, one must understand it. I have read the Bible several times, sometimes literally Genesis through Revelation. I can honestly say it is not even the best mythology I have read that existed at that time (not even the best parts of it). It had one thing going for it: intolerance. Those who do not tolerate diversity spread homogeny.
Christianity is not some scourge that swept over Europe like a dark wraith. It is imperfect, to be sure, but it is debatable whether it is better or worse than what it replaced. The greatest travesty in it all was the destruction of non-Christian tablets, scrolls, and books. We are left with an incomplete history and incomplete knowledge.
Imagine if tomorrow atheism suddenly became popular, and the works of theists like Newton, Einstein, Kepler, etc. were all torched. We would be plunged into an age of ignorance… one might almost call it a Dark Age. It should not be our fate to repeat history. If knowledge serves humankind any purpose, it is to prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the past.
Luckily, Christianity has made a lot of mistakes. That’s not great news for Christians, but it is splendid news for atheists who hope to learn from them. Christianity has much to teach, it’s just that many of those lessons are not consciously preached. Even the Bible has several unintentional lessons. It is a glorious repository of human psychology: obsession with death, the male desire for a virgin bride, the urge to imagine your mother never having had sex…
However, as Woody Allen pointed out, “Even a clock that’s broken is right twice a day.” Christianity is no clock that’s stopped dead, either. It usually runs just fine (except between gay o’clock and woman-thirty). Not killing, not stealing, treating your neighbor well… no one’s arguing with that stuff. Of course, there are people who think taking a pill and having a heavy period is murder, or that it’s okay to kill a man as long as 12 people agree it’s right, or that strapping a flag on your chest or arm and shooting at someone with a different flag on their chest or arm is acceptable. Murder/abortion/execution/war… semantics.
When I see that guy who shot the abortion doctor, I have to wonder what he’s really angry about. What horrible emotion was he channeling when he decided to end the life of another person in front of the man’s own church. I don’t look at him and see religious nut. He’s religious, and he’s a nut, but the two are unlinked. Most of the atheist blogs I read have posted almost gleefully about the fact that religion made him do it. I assert it did not, religion just failed to prevent him from doing it (it’s just not magical). Personally, I wish the conditions of Roeder’s imprisonment were better. Does that make me more like Jesus than conservatives who want Gitmo detainees tortured and held indefinitely? Yes.
I immerse myself in Christian mythology every day. Jesus is one of the literary characters I’m most familiar with. He is one of many ascetics in our past who advocate a simpler way of life, promising it elevate one to the peak of human potential, and I think there is something to that aspect of religion. Most of us can do better, and it usually requires takes self-control. Christianity just got some of the details wrong.
So imagine my shock when I leave the solitude of my studies to peruse the opinions of believers… and I find them to be an untidy brothel of materialistic whores. My initial reaction is amusement, no doubt about that. However, there is a point when the humor turns into horror. Imagine you are watching a drunk stumble down the sidewalk in a most hilarious fashion, and you laugh yourself silly until he pukes into your convertible, right on the driver’s seat. At this point, it ceases to be funny, and the cheer turns to rage.
I try my best to write when I am in that jovial mood, when I can’t help but double over guffawing at the bizarre behavior of other people. Usually the frustration and anger creeps up, especially when I consider the impact these buffoons have on society. I can search for the words all night, into the wee morning hours, struggling to whet my argument to a razor’s edge, but I know it is futile. The fools… they will not even listen to good advice when it is coming directly from their God. If Christians ignore the Bible, they will most certainly ignore me.
I can’t hope to correct anyone, I can only hope to speak their own language more fluently they than they can. Then, I can enjoy making them look like the fools I have seen them to be for so long. Others can see it to, all I have to do is shine the light upon them for all to view, so we can all share in their obnoxious celebration of ignorance.
When all else fails, laugh.