Target Identified: Evangelicalism

Standard

A fast-paced and witty (at least to some of us) piece of writing by Robert Weitzel appeared in the Atlantic Free Press this month. Weitzel is a freelance writer and outspoken atheist whose writes regularly for The Capital Times in Madison, WI as well as several other papers and journals. The Free Press article is titled “Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris: The Unholy Trinity . . .Thank God” and is, as you might expect, a general ‘put-down’ of religion and those who profess to be religious and a rah-rah piece for the ‘unholy trinity of best-selling authors, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

Being a member of what Weitzel calls the POF (the “pis**d-off faithless”) I found myself nodding and agreeing with Weitzel as he made the point that 10% of Americans identify themselves as atheists (which accounts for the phenomenal sales of the books written by the “unholy trinity”) and especially when he made the very significant argument that:

“If the faithful would just keep their religious beliefs in their own pocket and out of public school classrooms and bedrooms and women’s wombs, I doubt much would ever be heard from the unholy trinity or the POF. What would be the point?”

I’ve often had that very same thought and have more than once expressed it in several blog posts over the years. I realize, as I’m sure Weitzel does, that wishing for that is like asking for a cocktail at a Mormon picnic — its impractical when you consider that many religious people consider it their duty to go out and ‘heal’ us heathens; but it does frame the basic problem very well.

So as I’m reading along, enjoying the fact that the author has set so much of what I perceive in writing I am suddenly jarred to a stop!

This is the paragraph that stopped me:

“It goes without saying that multitudes of the faithful live quiet lives comfortable in the skin of their beliefs, and that good people are dedicating their lives to the betterment of humanity (locally and globally) under the banner of one religion or another. But if religion disappeared tomorrow, those same good people would still be out there doing what they can because of who they are not because of where they worship. (emphasis added)”

Suddenly a bell went off and I realized that Weitzel is attempting to completely devalue religion and I believe that that is a bridge too far.

Religion itself is not the enemy! Religion is, for many people, the only thing that they have to help them get through life. Many people would figuratively ‘disintegrate’ if religion “disappeared tomorrow.” Religion and religious values that stem from religion are not the enemy of the atheist, agnostic or secularist or of the American people in general — the enemy is that overwhelming urge that so many religious people have to ‘convert’ those who do not believe. That perceived necessity of so many religious people to “save the souls of us heathens.” I don’t want (and I do not believe any right-thinking non-believer wants) to steal anyone’s religion or destroy anyone’s religion or convince anyone that our way is the right way. All I want is what Weitzel expressed so well earlier in his article: I want religious people to “keep their religious beliefs in their own pocket and out of public school classrooms and bedrooms and women’s wombs.” Any religion that will not allow its adherents to do that is a religion that is not perpetuating itself but is destroying itself.

In plain English: evangelicalism is the enemy! Evangelicalism is, in fact, at least as I see it, the very antithesis of what America is all about!

News Links:

CNN International: I-Reporters quiz CNN’s Amanpour (re: the CNN documentary: God’s Warriors”)

Atlantic Free Press: Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris: The Unholy Trinity . . .Thank God

OpEdNews.com: Creating a Set of Laws for All Religions, Like Asimov’s Laws of Robotics

From the Blogosphere:

The Evangelical Outpost: All God’s Warrior’s Need Secular Shoes

Golos – The Voice: Guess who is most dangerous: Muslim, Jewish, or Christian religious extremists?

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Target Identified: Evangelicalism

  1. Interesting, if a self-conflicting option there. 🙂

    You claim that you’d like religious people to keep their religions to themselves (while admitting most of them have as a direct purpose to spread their own religion). Now, since those religions specifically require their adherents TO spread their message, that can only be determined to be stopping people from the free exercise of their religion.

    At the same time, I’d claim that if you were to require people to do so, you’d be forcing your religion (atheism) on them!

    Now you don’t happen to mention if you’d like government to make this happen. If you support government forcing me to stop talking about my religion to you, then I’d submit you’re using government to force your religion on me. That’s wrong. On the other hand, if you just politely tell me to “get lost” and want to use your rights to ignore me; or your property rights to stop me from doing so on your property (your home or business), then I’ve no problem at all with that!

    As for evangelicalism being NOT what America’s all about, that’s certainly in conflict with many of the original settlers of this land…

  2. wheresroxy

    Well said – thank you…
    As a dear friend often says: It’s not God I have an issue with, it’s some members of his fan club.

    Meanwhile, if “saving” others is in fact the goal (the Great Commission) then yes, that certainly prevents them from making their faith a strictly personal thing, sharing it when asked.

    Personally I don’t have any issues with Christians, or with Christianity. Where I have issue are those who want to say, “Mine is the only way, and if you don’t agree, you’re going to hell, so convert. See how much Jesus loves you?”

    OK, fine. That’s their belief, and equally important to them is “sharing” that belief. But in doing so, many of the more zealous trample the basic human rights of others.

  3. Ogre,

    I guess I painted with too broad a brush — let me reiterate and clarify what I said in my post — what I see as the KEY problem:

    “All I want is what Weitzel expressed so well earlier in his article: I want religious people to “keep their religious beliefs in their own pocket and out of public school classrooms and bedrooms and women’s wombs.”

    THAT is the evangelism I’m speaking about, the evangelism that, thanks to the “Religious Right,” has created amendments to state constitutions that dictate who can marry whom; the evangelism that has painted a woman who desires an abortion as a murderess and, the evangelism that has created a backlash in the school system where teachers and administrators are now so afraid of being sued that they will not even touch on the subject of religion.

    Now if that last item seems out of place, it’s not (at least not the way I see the problem). Thanks to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition and Falwell’s revival of the Moral Majority, the new Moral Majority Coalition, religion has become a political force and that scares a lot of people because in many minds religion equals restriction of freedom and that has created a powerful backlash against religion. When I wrote: “Evangelicalism is, in fact, at least as I see it, the very antithesis of what America is all about!” I was talking about freedom . . . freedom OF religion as well as freedom FROM religion.

    I really don’t care if Christians try to convince me, one-on-one, that if I keep it up I’m going to Hell. I love a good argument and I’ll argue back that Heaven and Hell were created by humans and are as fictional as anything you’ll find in the works of Stephen King, so Hell doesn’t worry me. Personal evangelism is not the problem, but when our laws become to be unduly influenced by religion we have a problem.

    And NO. I want the government as far away from the religion question as i want them away from marriage restrictions, abortion restrictions and educational restrictions.

    Atheists are not immoral they just have a problem with people who think they own the only true way to live.

  4. wheresroxy,

    I love the way your friend put it: it IS the fan club that’s the problem.

    I have great respect for religion and religious people but, as you said: when “many of the more zealous trample the basic human rights of others” we have a problem.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. heatlight

    As a former atheist, I can honestly say that if I were to ever to grow unconvinced of the truth of the Bible, be warned. I have studied philosophy extensively, and I can find no reason for ‘objective morals’ apart from an ‘objective moral lawgiver’, and knowing the corruption of my own heart, I can’t honestly say I’d be the ‘good guy’ that Weitzel thinks. I hate to say it, because I actually considered many different faiths, and explored a lot before becoming a convinced believer, but I do ‘need’ Jesus – without Him, I’m a real bastard. I an admit it, too.

  6. Whoa. Talk about … something I care about. I’ve written a book (out now, from the Chriistian publishing house NavPress) called “I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop,” which is about the idea that (we) Christians would do well to stop worrying so much about the Great Commission (which says, in effect, “Go turn everyone who isn’t a Christian into a Christian”) and start worrying more about Jesus’ Great Commandment, which is (in part) to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The book’s doing well; it’s been simply amazing how some people you’d least expect to embrace it have. The Director of Evangelism at (huge) First United Methodist Church of Dallas, for instance, taught a class in it that was so popular she’s had to schedule another one. A bunch of stuff. It’s incredible.

    I’m a “blogger” for Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com, the two massive websites owned by the humongous Christian media company, Salem Communications. I keep a mirror site of the stuff I post there on WordPress. If anyone’s interested, you might like to check out a piece I posted on the Salem sites called, “Are the Great Commisson and the Great Commandment Incompatible? It’s here:

    http://johnshore.wordpress.com/2007/05/24/are-the-great-commandment-and-the-great-commission-incompatible/

    (Its follow up, “More on the Great Commisson vs. The Great Commandment” is here:
    http://johnshore.wordpress.com/2007/05/25/more-on-the-great-commandment-vs-the-great-commission/)

    Anyway, great post here. Thanks for dialogue.

  7. heatlight.

    If you’re convinced of the truth of the Bible — stick to your guns! I will certainly never impose my views on you but I’m always open to a good discussion.

    I have never studied philosophy beyond a few very basic books and even they confound me with their terminology, so I will loose hands down in any philosophical discussion of the subject. What I believe is what I can perceive and what pure logic and what the old timers called “horse sense” lead me to believe. If you, in fact, see no reason for ‘objective morals’ you have as I see it (this, remember, is just my personal opinion) willingly put on the ‘yoke of intellectual slavery’ — if you’re happy with that, I wish you all the best.

  8. John,

    Your book sounds like a real winner — hope it exceeds your wildest expectations.

    My only question is: CAN believers “stop worrying so much about the Great Commission” and still feel fully-connected to their religion.

    I have no statistics but just from my personal experience and research I believe that most religious people have a very casual relationship with their faith and, for these people, it would not be a problem; but there are others who take their faith so seriously they would be ‘crushed’ by that kind of casual relationship with their ‘Great Commission.’

    Any thoughts on this? Or should I just buy the book! 😉

  9. Please let’s not confuse “evangelical” with “religious right”. Speaking as an evangelical, I was raised on the teachings of British evangelicals CS Lewis and John Stott, and I heartily object to constantly being lumped in with the Bible Belt, Robertson, Falwell and the Moral Whatever. My political beliefs are actually fairly centrist (what do you get when you mix red and blue… brown? {shrugging} )

    I think what many people object to — and rightly so — is just plain rudeness, insensitivity, and lack of respect on the part of some religious folks. There is absolutely no excuse for trying to force someone’s conversion. If a person indicates they’ve heard enough about God for today, then the subject needs to be changed, NOW. These “fan club” members (good way to look at it BTW) are waaaay out of line and are usually just as obnoxious towards fellow churchgoers as they are to you.

    BTW just for future reference — “evangelical” roughly translated from the Greek means “bringer of good news” which is a reference to the good news that a dead man walked out of the grave alive and therefore the tyranny of the grave is over. Death is dead. Life isn’t at all what we once thought it was. That’s the core of it. People can safely set their BS-O-Meters to discount any other nonsense the media tries to pass off as “evangelicalism”. (Screeching extremists are a PITA no matter what flavor they come in… but they do make good press, don’t they?)

    The problem with keeping quiet about faith — which is not the same thing as “religion” (handed-down mand-made traditions that may or may not have anything to do with God) — is it would not only make us bad Christians, it would make us bad Americans. In a democracy it is the civic duty of all people to make their voices heard and their votes counted. It’s only in holding in creative tension the diversity of all people that democracy truly works.

    On a personal note, in a way I kinda agree with Heatlight — if I didn’t believe in Jesus there’s no way I’d be wasting my time hanging out in churches with a bunch of do-gooders… I’d be living for myself and grabbing all the gusto I could grab. Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, kwim? There is no basis for morality without some form of higher power, so why bother doing “good” (especially when “good” and “evil” are illusions anyway)?

    Just my 2c…

  10. Peg,

    I quite clearly see your point about evangelicals but . . .

    To me the Religious Right epitomizes the worst kind of evangelicalism — they not only want to spread the good word but they want to shove it down your throat. Anyway, that’s just my observation, I have no problem with evangelicals on a personal, day-to-day basis.

    There IS indeed a basis for morality without a higher power! Atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers have as much concern about (and as clear a view of) right and wrong as religious people do. The difference, as I see it , is that religious people behave morally because they are commanded to by their ‘higher power’ while the rest of us behave morally because we clearly see it is the right thing to do.

    If you took a count of all the immoral people in the world you would probably find that about half of them behaved immorally because of misguided religious reasons and half for secular or personal reasons.

    There are no intelligent people who believe that good and evil are illusions and intelligence is not a function of religious belief.

    Thanks for reading and commenting Peg. I do appreciate every comment and, as I said in a previous comment, I do love a good argument.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s