Saturday, March 17, 2007

Are We Out To Destroy Christianity? Hardly.

Red State Rabble has always been one of my favorite, not just for its interesting perspective on issues like science and religion, but also because I find it to be very well written. RSR also possesses the uncanny ability to dig straight through the handwringing vagueness that accompanies most efforts at trying to get a point across and get to the heart of the matter.

This post has kept me thinking for the last several days, largely because I believe RSR is dead center on with it. He begins by addressing the furor over the Jesus Tomb and the fundamentalist claims that Hollywood is out to destroy religion, but moves beyond it to find the core. Some snippets:

Forget, for now, the fact that the Cameron documentary, which purported to have discovered the bones of Jesus, made absolutely no impression on anyone outside the fundamentalist movement.

A nation preoccupied with a losing war in Iraq, we suspect, has more important things to think about than whether or not a set of bones proves or disproves an ancient myth, even if a large section of the population professes to believe it. Although, in all honesty, we can't deny that a large section of the populace seems equally absorbed in the details of Anna Nicole Smith's death and Brittany Spears latest haircut, and that may caution us against imputing any particularly noble intent on the part of the people who inhabit the home of the free and the land of the brave.

With the exception of James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and the like on the religious right, and Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and a handful of like-minded "New Atheists," on the other side, everyone else seems perfectly happy to be tolerant of a range of religious belief that extends from traditional Catholics, Jews, and Protestants to a growing acceptance of Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans and even, in many cases now, skeptics like RSR and friends.

Most of us grew up believing that religious belief belongs in the private sphere of church and family. We're as reluctant to push our own beliefs on others as we are to criticize theirs. That's broken down recently because the religious right insists on pushing their rather peculiar beliefs on the rest of us.

They've made religion into a political issue by demanding that we teach the supposed controversy over evolution while suppressing information about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. They say that developing cures for devastating diseases such as Parkinson's is less important than keeping frozen embryos frozen. Inoculating girls against a virus that causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases -- which kills about 290,000 deaths a year world-wide -- would be immoral, they say.

Moreover, rather than just practicing what they preach and be done with it, they demand that all the rest of us follow the strange dictates of their religious faith rather than our own.

These fundamentalists also have the rather distressing trait of thundering moral condemnation on the beliefs held dear by the rest of us while demanding scrupulous respect for themselves. They can say anything they want about us, but criticism of them is blasphemy.

This is why, people like RSR, who were once comfortable in their own beliefs and would never have thought of criticising the beliefs of others are now speaking up. And, for the most part, were not trying, as Medved would have it, to discredit religion as a whole, but to protect ourselves against an aggressive, self-righteous, fundamentalism.

Emphasis is mine on that last paragraph in part because I'm definitely one of those "people like RSR". Christianity spawned a reaction from me when it became predominately political and less spiritual. Had that not happened, Northstate Science might well still be on my mental list of things to get around to one day.

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